Why the health care staffing labor shortage is so prevalent and what we need to do next

The health care labor shortage is a staffing crisis we can no longer ignore. While most people attribute the staffing shortage to COVID-19, the truth is that it was an issue long before the pandemic and will continue to be an issue long after.

Factors that contributed to the labor shortage

The aging population 

As technology has progressed, several medical advancements have prolonged the average person’s life span. While this is advantageous, it also means that people today require care for longer periods of time. About 10,000 individuals aged 59-77 have joined Medicare plans, which has increased the demand for more health care workers in recent years (Barrueta, 2023).

Burnout among health care professionals

The pandemic caused unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios, further contributing to feelings of burnout. A survey found that 34 percent of nurses wished to quit their health care jobs by the end of 2022, and 44 percent said this was due to burnout (Keck School of Medicine of USC, 2023).

Limited opportunities for training new health care workers 

Training opportunities are severely limited due to the lack of nursing faculty available to train the next generation of health care workers. Universities turn away tens of thousands of applicants for nursing and health care programs each year (Duquesne University School of Nursing, N.D.).

Other contributors to the shortage 

The Great Resignation is a term that refers to a record number of workers who quit their jobs, including health care professionals (Admin Health care Workforce Trends, 2023). Many factors have influenced The Great Resignation, such as lack of job satisfaction, health care decisions being politicized, and more (Admin Health care Workforce Trends, 2023).

When health care workers get sent to remote or underserved areas, they tend to be unsatisfied with their jobs for several reasons. These reasons include being relocated from their families, remote areas not paying as well, and underserved areas not having as many resources to properly treat patients. This is unfortunate because millions of Americans live in these remote and underserved areas where trained professionals are lacking (Keck School of Medicine of USC, 2023).

Strategies and solutions that need to be implemented

Flexible schedules

One study found that 55.4 percent of care providers had greater work satisfaction when given the opportunity to have a flexible schedule (Frasier, 2022). The survey also found that 50 percent of respondents with flexible schedules experienced a better quality of life, feeling less stressed and more in control of their workload (Frasier, 2022).

Tuition assistance or loan repayment programs

If health care professionals were relieved of some of the burden that student loans place on them, then more people would consider entering the field. Health care employers could incorporate tuition assistance or student loan repayment programs into their benefits packages to entice potential future employees.

Offer online learning and continued education

If universities provide the option of obtaining a health degree and other certificates online, this could lead to an increase in people entering the medical field. Although clinicals would still need to take place in person, students could commute less and complete some of their course work in the comfort of their home (Duquesne University, 2023).

As the demand for quality care continues to rise, we need more health care workers than ever before. The health care industry will not see an improvement involving the staffing shortage until these necessary changes have been made.

Sources:

A Public Health Crisis: Staffing Shortages in Health Care: USC MPH. Online Master’s in Public Health - Keck School of Medicine of USC. (2023, March 13). https://mphdegree.usc.edu/blog/staffing-shortages-in-health-care/

Barrueta, A. A. (2023, March 7). Hiring alone won’t solve the health care worker shortage. Kaiser Permanente. https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/news/hiring-alone-wont-solve-health-care-worker-shortage

Frasier, B. (2022, November 8). Critical Condition: A Four-Part Plan to Solve the Dire Shortage of Health Care Workers. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/executive/resources/articles/pages/health-care-worker-shortage-frasier.aspx

Health care Workforce Trends, A. at. (2023, June 2). Overcoming Health care Staffing Shortages: Why a Managed Service Provider Is Necessary. Trusted Managed Services. https://tmsmsp.com/resources/health care-staffing-shortages/

The Shortage of Health care Workers in the U.S. Duquesne University School of Nursing. (2020, June 26). https://onlinenursing.duq.edu/post-master-certificates/shortage-of-health care-workers/.


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