Talent Tuesday: The Key to Frictionless, Efficient Health System Staffing: Being Predictive

By Bryan Dickerson, Senior Director of Healthcare Workforce Solutions, Hospital IQ
Twitter: @HospitalIQ

Over the past year and a half, reactivity in all areas of operations within the healthcare system has had significant impacts to both the nurse and patient experience. One of the areas hit the hardest during the pandemic have been the nurses themselves. Nursing leaders and staffing coordinators have had to adopt new strategies to effectively staff on the fly in order to meet fluctuating demands for patient care. In today’s healthcare climate, the value of predictive staffing is undeniable, and adopting these processes will be crucial for health systems to function at the level of efficiency required to meet care demand.

With predictive staffing, unit leaders and staffing offices can leverage the power of proactive planning to achieve better outcomes for staff and patients alike. By using predictive analytics, they have the foresight needed to make more informed decisions about staff utilization and create staffing plans that increase staff satisfaction, improve patient care, and support the organization’s bottom line. When last-minute adjustments are required, the visibility and insight into nursing needs and staff allocation provided by predictive analytics allows those changes to be made quickly, calmly, and with as little disruption as possible.

The benefits that predictive staffing have on workforce alignment within health systems are immense, especially under the continued stress and pressure of the pandemic. By adopting these processes and technology solutions, stressful and costly staffing oversights are avoided and day to day workflows become more effective.

The impact of proactive staffing

1. A stress-free start to each day.
When the day begins with traditional staffing processes, the staffing office and unit leaders are tasked with trying to figure out who’s working that day, identifying staffing gaps, and understanding the current care demands to ensure staffing assignments will suffice. Valuable time is wasted on this manual, inefficient and repetitive process while staffing teams chase down data. Instead of planning strategically, staffing teams are forced to make decisions in crisis-mode due to the last-minute nature of process, which can often result in inadequate patient coverage. This cycle of chaos can be broken using advanced technology platforms to improve communication of staffing needs, giving more time back to the staffing office and unit leaders and supplying them with proactive insights and recommendations for more strategic, intelligent decision-making.

2. Ensured accuracy of staffing strategies today, tomorrow, and next week.
Making day-of staff planning easier positively impacts the following days as well. With the present day handled, staffing teams now have the opportunity to view upcoming needs to proactively identify and resolve issues.

Health systems are aligning their staff with patient needs days in advance with predictive analytics. More specifically, staffing teams can leverage enterprise-wide patient volumes a full week in advance when using staffing technology that provides accurate, data-driven census forecasts. The ability to proactively address staffing needs and easily assign, or reassign, staff based on forecasted demand boosts staff satisfaction thanks to a more reliable schedule and more manageable caseloads, improves utilization of staffing resources and guarantees consistent care coverage for patients.

3. Proactively manage unit and staff capacity.
Hospital and unit capacity are dependent on having enough caregivers to meet patient demand. By accounting for projected patient census and discharge activities in staffing plans, nursing leaders and staffing teams can proactively determine if there’s sufficient staff for both the current and upcoming patient demand. If there isn’t sufficient coverage, however, they’re equipped with the visibility needed to take preemptive action to address projected understaffing issues.

Teams can resolve understaffing issues before they ever impact hospital capacity. For example, using premium pay and float staff more strategically, switching to backup staffing plans that support stretched capacity for a brief period, or open an overflow unit to place patients elsewhere.

With so much uncertainty remaining around surges in patient demand and pandemic-related care, health systems cannot afford to delay the adoption of predictive analytics. Accurate, informed decision-making capabilities days in advance enables teams to solve staffing challenges and increase staff satisfaction, manage costs of labor, and deliver the highest quality care and experience to patients.