Everyone knows that effective healthcare staffing is important. But most of us also know that it’s not as easy as it sounds. So, what options do leaders have in the face of challenges like shortages, nursing strikes, and sky-high turnover rates? Here’s a rundown of how to determine staffing needs for healthcare facilities, how to use that info to create an effective staffing plan, and some tips on making sure it works out as planned.
Why Determine Staffing Needs in Healthcare?
Of course, staffing is a core operational component of any healthcare organization. It’s essential not only to deliver quality care, but simply to run a facility. Today, though, many staffing plans fail to meet even this most basic need. Whether the cause is neglect, miscalculation, or error, a healthcare staffing plan that isn’t in sync with reality — and up to date with current trends — is often doomed to fail.
With the challenges facing today’s healthcare providers, though, failure is simply no longer an option. Higher rates of turnover are exacerbating a shortage that’s been steadily getting worse for the past decade. And any staffing plan that hasn’t addressed that factor is at risk of falling short when it counts.
Using up-to-date industry info and innovations in automation, analytics, and flexible staffing, a truly effective healthcare staffing plan does more than just help manage staff shortages and unexpected shifts in patient census. It can also free up room in the budget by eliminating the need for overtime. And by reducing double shifts and stressful situations, it can even curb burnout and improve morale.
An informed, forward-thinking healthcare staffing plan also helps speed up hiring by providing a clearer picture of current and future needs. Not only does this help eliminate last-minute hiring and improve prompt backfilling of positions, but it can help secure access to labor in a marketplace where skilled workers are in high demand.
3 Steps to Meet Staffing in Healthcare
Yet even with all these variables known, effective healthcare staffing can still seem like a daunting task. The best approach is to tackle the job as a three-step process:
- Learn how to determine staffing needs,
- Determine the key components of your staffing plan, and
- Follow established best practices for success.
Step 1: Determine Staffing Needs
Before you can optimize your staffing plan, you’ll need to know how to determine staffing needs in the first place. Begin by defining your larger goals as clearly as possible, for your entire organization. These goals are likely already defined and available to work with. Either way, this info should be your baseline, and a point to draw other, smaller goals relating to specific departments, shifts, and so on.
Next, assess your current workforce performance. Are there any persistent problems in hiring or turnover? Do you see any noticeable skill gaps, or are you struggling to find enough workers in certain specialties? Use key workforce metrics like cost per hire and assignment completion rate to give yourself as comprehensive — and honest — an assessment as possible.
Now, conduct a brief audit of how well your current workforce management strategy is meeting those larger goals. Are patient outcomes satisfactory? Is staff satisfaction high or low? How are you handling seasonal shifts in utilization? Methods like ratio analysis and skills gap analysis can help you best answer these questions, and map your current capabilities against future needs.
> If you need help with any of these action items, you can find expert guidance on workforce management here
Step 2: Utilize Key Healthcare Staffing Components
Now that you’ve got the info you need, it’s time to create a healthcare staffing plan — or better, yet, a staffing forecast that extends years into the future. While the specifics of each plan will be different for each organization, there are some universal, must-have considerations. These usually include:
- Patient needs and experience. First of all, most experts agree that the needs of individual patients as well as populations should be the starting point for any healthcare staffing plan. This includes not just basic care needs but also resources for different ages, languages, educational needs, and so on.
- Nurses and healthcare teams. Each staff member’s unique skills, specialties and other characteristics — like education and tech savviness — should be mapped and considered. Leaders who have already conducted a skills gap analysis will be well prepared for this step.
- Culture. Is the work environment set up to support staff members? Achieving optimum staffing means letting healthcare professionals work at the top of their practice. In turn, that promotes a positive, healthy culture. By the same token, if fatigue or burnout is high, then that needs to be considered in your staffing plan, too.
- Practice environment. How well do the practice settings promote the success and wellbeing of nurses and clinicians? From bathroom breaks to overtime, every single workplace policy will have some impact on how well the execution of your staffing plan will match your goals. Staff surveys are a good way to get actionable info on this point.
Step 3: Evaluate Your Staffing Needs
Even when all the components are in place and actively managed, it still takes skill and expertise to executive an effective staffing plan. Some tips for success include:
1. Evaluate and review. A staffing plan should never be static. Check the accuracy of your forecasts on a regular basis. In addition, you should make a plan to evaluate costs, outcomes, and the time it takes to provide specific procedures or achieve certain milestones to understand what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to be re-calibrated.
2. Check in with managers. “Managers typically know when the busiest times are and when they need the most people available,” writes Derek Jones at HCPLive. Including them in the staffing process, even as consultants, can help you avoid missing more detailed information that you’ll need for success.
3. Check in with nurses and floor staff. Ultimately, nobody knows more about the success of your staffing efforts than core staff. When you get their input through surveys, focus groups, or company events, you’ll also get important insights while helping boost morale.
4. Check in with technology. Are you making the most of technology like remote care and automated scheduling? These and other tech breakthroughs can help free up room in the schedule for skilled nurses, giving them time for other tasks that are better suited to their talents. In addition, tech can tackle many of the steps described above, like running skills gap analyses and tracking workforce metrics.
5. Secure a source of contingency workers. More and more often, meeting today’s healthcare staffing challenges requires the help of third-party contingency staffing providers. These partners can help you stay flexible enough to handle shortages, shifts in census, and other challenges. And when used strategically, they justify their price tag by helping reduce overtime and boost reimbursement eligibility, among other benefits.
> What’s it take to implement a successful contingency staffing strategy? Find out here
Determine, Optimize, and Meet Your Healthcare Staffing Needs
As one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare staffing and other workforce solutions, CareerStaff is your source for the guidance, tools, resources, and even skilled professionals you need to create and executive your ideal healthcare staffing plan. Contact us today to learn more about how our Joint Commission-Certified solutions can help your organization, or request staff now.