How Some Hospitals Are Grappling with the Workforce Shortage

How Some Hospitals Are Grappling with the Workforce Shortage. A group of eight clinicians with five shown completely and three appearing only in an outline representing unfilled positions within a hospital.

In April, leaders at Sanford Health, a rural system in Fargo, North Dakota, began rolling out an augmented intelligence software tool the organization co-developed with the tech firm Flexwise Health to begin scheduling its 10,000-plus nurses more effectively.

The platform uses predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to schedule the right number of people at the right time as long as 18 months in advance with far greater accuracy than prior scheduling methods. An early pilot showed that the system worked with almost 90% accuracy compared with 60% with Sanford’s previous scheduling process.

The overriding goal is to improve quality, but the platform also is designed to make more efficient use of the health system’s nursing workforce. Health system leaders believe the program, called LAMP (Leveraging Analytics to Mobilize and Prepare our workforce for the future), will lead to increased workplace satisfaction, resulting in higher levels of employee retention and greater patient satisfaction.

Techy Solutions to Address Staffing Needs

Sanford Health isn’t alone in exploring ways to use technology and other approaches to address the field’s workforce shortage. Henry Ford Health (HFH) system, facing its own challenges to retain nurses due to the Great Resignation and other market factors, has developed a “telesitting” program.

With the use of cameras and bedside speakers, telesitters can observe and communicate with patients and report any safety issues to on-site nurses. This helps to reduce stress on bedside nurses, Eric Wallis, chief nursing officer at HFH, recently told Modern Healthcare.

Telesitting is just one of many ways HFH hopes to use cameras and technology to assist nurses virtually. The program could be an attractive way for some nurses who no longer want to work a 12-hour shift to perform remote monitoring of patients with dementia or mental health issues, Wallis said.

Creating Apprentice Pathways To Careers

Livonia, Michigan-based Trinity Health is busy expanding an apprentice program it began in 2016 to more of its 88 hospitals. The program was created in response to a shortage of medical assistants that caused some facilities to reduce practice hours.

After examining turnover and forecasting data, Trinity leaders decided to try an apprenticeship program modeled after approaches used in manufacturing and construction. The 12-month program, developed with Grand Rapids Community College and Michigan Works! Association, lifted Trinity Health’s medical assistant-retention rate to 76% one year after graduation. The health system has trained 129 medical assistants since the program’s inception.

Trinity pays students to participate in the classroom three days a week and in the hospital two days a week — a departure from many medical or nursing assistant programs that typically are six months in duration with students paying for their own education.

The health system is exploring ways to offer the apprenticeship program in other areas where there are workforce gaps.

Delivering Standout Succession Planning

Developing homegrown talent can be among the most rewarding and efficient ways to address workforce gaps and ensure organizational stability. Indiana University (IU) Health’s focus on succession planning has helped to fill critical positions.

Currently, about two-thirds of IU Health’s promotions go to internal candidates, Christina Chapman, vice president and chief learning officer, recently told HealthLeaders.

Critical to this effort is the health system’s talent review process. Team members are asked to update their talent profiles, which provide to the organization each individual’s long- and short-term career aspirations, their dreams and whether they would be open to relocation. That profile information is shared with the employee’s leader, who then completes the talent assessment.

Senior leaders convene to assess the potential of candidates for senior-level positions as well as director and manager opportunities.


Learn More

Visit the AHA Workforce webpage for a wealth of resources to help your organization better retain, recruit and manage your staff. A new AHA resource, Supporting the Team addresses staff well-being and more. A recent American Organization for Nursing Leadership Executive Insights Report provides examples of how hospitals and health systems are using AI to improve patient care and staff efficiency.

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