Retaining the Workforce

Health systems explore ways to recruit, retain staff amid variant surge; prepare for long-term changes

August 24, 2021 – A recent McKinsey survey found that 22% of nurses providing direct patient care indicated that they may leave their current position within the next year. A significant strain exists in the healthcare workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health systems recognize the unique challenge and are responding with wage increases, recruitment increases and one-time bonuses. These are the top tactics used during the past three months to maintain and retain a strong nursing workforce.

Nursing turnover and vacancy rates have increased four to five percentage points in the past 12 months. This is all during a time when health systems are trying to catch up to meet increased demand as patient volumes return and exceed 2019 levels in the U.S. Expanded clinic hours, increased physician productivity expectations, optimized operating room scheduling and expanded operating room hours are all critical challenges hospitals cite and to meet them lies on the capacity and well-being of their healthcare workforces.

Operations Impacted

Health systems have had to change their care model, reduce inpatient capacity, report reductions in operating room and ambulatory clinic capacity, increase emergency department diversion and increase length of stay as more than 80% of respondents reported continued challenges with nursing workforce coverage.

Challenges with broader clinical support staff coverage was reported by 60% of respondents. The McKinsey survey represented 100 respondent hospitals across the U.S. with more than 200 beds, collectively representing about 10% of all hospital beds in the country.

Hard Hit South

Hospitals are making do with available resources and staff in the hard hit states in the South. Hospitals in Georgia had to scale back services due to lack of staff and some halted elective surgeries. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, experienced nurses are quitting in Georgia, changing jobs or just hanging on.

The Delta variant has struck the South harder than other areas of the country and hospital staff are exhausted battling COVID-19’s fourth wave.

Because of healthcare staffing shortages in Mississippi, 771 medical-surgical and 235 ICU beds are unused. More than 70 Mississippi hospitals have collectively asked the state for about 1,450 healthcare workers to make use of the available beds during the Delta variant surge.

A recent health order certified Mississippi’s Emergency Medical Services workers to provide care for patients in state-licensed hospitals as Mississippi saw its highest number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations since the virus entered the state in March 2020.

According to McKinsey, healthcare systems are managing short-term, pandemic-era workforce challenges and preparing for long-term changes to enhance the workforce and patient experience.

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