From home health caregivers to hospital staff, healthcare professionals of all kinds are leaving the field for a variety of reasons. This, in turn, is creating a widespread staff shortage in healthcare.
According to the U.S. News & World Report, a lack of healthcare workers is “the nation’s top patient safety concern.” Diminished workforces across healthcare disciplines continue to leave patients waiting to receive the care they need and caregivers overworked and burned out.
With the right improvements to the working environment and employee treatment, we can increase support for home health caregivers and mitigate the issues created by the shortage.
Read on to learn more about the causes and impact of the widespread staff shortage in healthcare and how to help ease the burden of healthcare organizations and workers.
Healthcare Staff Shortage Causes
The widespread staff shortage in healthcare has multiple ongoing causes. These include:
- COVID-19: As of October 2021, 18% of healthcare workers surveyed by Morning Consult had quit their jobs during the pandemic, with another 12% having been laid off. Of these, 54% cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a primary motivating factor.
- Low compensation versus inflation: Healthcare professionals receive insufficient compensation for the important work they do, despite rising inflation. According to the Morning Consult survey, 50% of these workers left the field in search of better pay or benefits.
- Burnout and heavy workload: Healthcare professionals face long hours, irregular schedules, and overburdened workloads. The same survey found that 49% of those who left their healthcare jobs did so because they were overworked or burned out, and 50% found better opportunities elsewhere.
- Lack of qualified educators/mentors: Because of the ongoing staff shortage in healthcare, the number of qualified mentors and instructors is also diminishing. This makes it even more difficult for new caregivers to receive the necessary training and guidance to do their jobs effectively.
- Pre-existing high turnover rate: The widespread staff shortage in healthcare has certainly increased in recent years, but the field’s high turnover rate was a problem even before the onset of COVID-19.
- Aging population: As the population of Americans over the age of 65 increases, so does the demand for physicians and home health caregivers to care for them. But an estimated one-third of currently active doctors will also reach the age of retirement within the next decade, potentially leaving their positions vacant.
Unless these and other contributing factors are addressed, the staff shortage in healthcare will only continue to worsen.
Impact of the Staff Shortage in Healthcare
Such a widespread staff shortage in healthcare causes an overall decrease in the quality of care provided and longer wait times for patients. When there are only so many workers to go around, many patients either fail to receive the care they need or receive care too late.
But patients aren’t the only ones affected. Healthcare workers themselves experience negative effects of staffing shortages, from insufficient training to burnout and deteriorating mental health.
Furthermore, these negative effects continue to cause more healthcare workers to leave the field, creating a cycle of staffing shortages that in turn cause even more staffing shortages.
How to Improve Recruitment & Retention
Efforts to solve the staff shortage in healthcare should focus on both recruitment and retention and must directly address the problems and concerns that are causing healthcare workers to quit their jobs.
For example, facilities like New Hanover Regional Medical Center have seen great success in recruiting more workers by forming partnerships with local schools and offering direct communication between recruiters and potential applicants. These efforts help increase interest in the healthcare field and establish trust with prospective recruits.
Because burnout and exhaustion are key contributors to the staff shortage in healthcare, efforts to decrease workloads and increase compensation play a major role in retention, as does providing resources and support for workers’ mental and emotional health.
It’s also important to provide opportunities for workers to receive additional training so they’re better equipped to handle existing and future responsibilities. Online training options such as ProTrainings individual and group courses help healthcare providers improve their skill sets without adding more stress to their already packed schedules.
Caregivers Also Need Care
The staff shortage in healthcare isn’t new, but it has been exacerbated in recent years. Failure to improve working conditions for healthcare professionals will only perpetuate the cycle of short staff and high turnover rates. However, providing workers with resources, support, and time-saving tools will help keep them motivated and engaged.
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