Though less often discussed, the current healthcare labor shortage includes not just nurses and clinicians but also leaders and managers. For that reason, many organizations now partner with on-demand providers of interim leadership to fill those vacancies. Here’s a closer look at the causes driving this trend, and how having an interim leader resource can benefit facilities of all types.
What Is an Interim Leader in Healthcare?
So, what are interim leaders, and why are they so important to the continued success of healthcare organizations?
Just as the name suggests, an interim leader is a professional who steps in to fill a vacant leadership role. Often associated with executive-level officers like CEOs, CFOs or CMOs, interim leaders can also include directors of nursing (DONs), assistant directors of nursing (ADONs), unit managers, department directors, nurse supervisors, and other roles that manage staff as well as provide direct patient care.
Why is Interim Leadership in Demand?
These are all essential roles, which must be quickly backfilled when they become vacant. However, data shows that healthcare leadership turnover is increasing, just as it is with so many other clinical positions.
For instance, one report shared by the American Hospital Association (AHA) noted that a whopping 74% of healthcare executives said they felt burned out in the last six months of 2022. Another 51% said they were considering leaving their jobs, with 50% saying they might exit healthcare altogether. Meanwhile, another report showed that turnover among healthcare CEOs has been 67% higher in 2023 than 2022.
Beyond executives, almost half of healthcare workers are considering leaving the profession. This includes not just floor and bedside nurses, but also unit managers and directors. An issue in all types of facilities, this trend is especially prominent in long-term care (LTC) facilities — and has been even before the pandemic. And as we noted in our recent guide to staffing ratios, many of the nurses in those facilities are, by requirement, DONs and ADONs.
What Does an Interim Leader Do in Healthcare?
No matter what level of turnover an organization currently has, these numbers make it clear that preparing for potential vacancies is a wise choice. Enter the interim leader. Specializing in fulfilling the duties of absent leaders, these professionals help ensure that staff, budget, and operational needs continue to be managed in a way that meets the organization’s larger mission and goals.
But the skills of an interim leader go beyond simply filling in vacant positions. They must also quickly and accurately assess an organization’s larger goals, budget, and access to resources. They must work to maintain morale at a time when it may be faltering — i.e., amid a leader’s unexpected departure. And throughout it all, they must also focus on ensuring a smooth transition for their successor.
Benefits of Utilizing an Interim Leader in Healthcare Staffing
As we’ve seen, a successful interim leader should have a highly specialized skillset. As such, finding the right individual often requires the help of an on-demand staffing provider. And organizations that may be hesitant to enter into such a partnership should consider the long list of benefits offered by a capable, competent, and quickly sourced interim leader.
Maintaining Continuity of Care and Operations
Whether expected or unexpected, any gap in leadership can be disruptive and costly. An experienced interim leader helps mitigate that risk by sustaining patient care and general operational needs, while also staying compliant with regulations. And all of these factors are critical to an organization’s ability to uphold quality standards, earn reimbursement, and maintain revenue.
Interim Leaders Preserve Staff Morale
In the face of surging turnover, preserving morale among core clinical staff is especially important. Interim leaders help meet this important goal by focusing not just on operations but also culture. They work to maintain a feeling of normalcy during times of change, and actively address staff concerns. The result of building a better workplace culture with interim leadership can be sustained and can even improve job satisfaction among full-time staff.
Interim Leaders Help Reduce Burnout
In addition to boosting morale, an interim leader can help curb healthcare burnout by quickly filling vacant positions among unit directors and managers. This helps protect employees from having to fill in and work extra hours on tasks outside of their core responsibilities. Especially in facilities where staff may be stretched thin, this can provide a valuable way to prevent burnout and turnover.
Time to Find the Best Replacement
An on-demand interim leader can usually fill in for as long as needed, from a few weeks to a year or more. That gives administrative staff members more time to find a replacement, which can help improve their job satisfaction, too. Even better, it improves the chances of finding the best possible replacement for the vacant role, rather than simply making the fastest choice. And that benefits everyone involved.
New Ideas & Direction
Because they bring experience from a variety of facilities, interim leadership can also offer fresh takes and new perspectives. As such, an interim leader can serve as agents of change to improve an organization’s procedures, culture, security, use of technology, ability to innovate, and other important considerations. They can also offer new solutions for departments that are underperforming or that need to be restructured.
Helping Fill New Positions
Since the pandemic, many organizations now seek to merge or restructure certain units or departments, or even create new ones. An interim leader or manager can provide important leadership and expertise during this process, before a permanent leader is hired. They can also offer guidance in transferring staff or finding new employees to ensure the success of these new initiatives.
Find the Right Interim Leader Solution with CareerStaff
Whether you represent a hospital, nursing home, or any other facility, you can find your next interim leader with CareerStaff. Certified by The Joint Commission and listed among America’s Largest Staffing Firms by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), we’re standing by to deliver the right leaders to meet your specific needs.
Learn more about our interim leader solutions here, or request staff now.