What COVID-19 Pandemic Taught Us About Workforce Management In Healthcare

By Derek Jones, VP Enterprise Strategy, Americas, Deputy
Twitter: @deputyapp

The Covid-19 pandemic outbreak affected the way many industries operate, but especially healthcare. There was suddenly a massive pressure on the healthcare system as workload continued to increase with the speed of light.

This increase in workload resulted in a shortage of healthcare providers and exposed many inefficiencies, so the need for reforms and better workforce management in healthcare became obvious.

Now that we’ve had over a year and a half to reflect, let’s see what the pandemic taught us about the importance of workforce management in healthcare.

Lesson #1: A persisting shortage of healthcare workers

The first thing we’ve learned from the pressure Covid created on healthcare is that the shortage of qualified medical professionals is here to stay.

According to the WHO Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030, we could experience global shortages of up to 9.9 million physicians, nurses, and midwives by 2030.

These healthcare staff shortages are why practice managers need to find different and better ways to recruit, engage and retain medical professionals now more than ever before. For instance, improving the staffing to decrease workload, offering career advancement opportunities, or providing training are just a few things that can help you overcome the shortage.

Lesson #2: Healthcare professionals are overworked

Based on a recent Frontiers in Psychology research that examined burnout rates in frontline workers during Covid-19, 48.6% of them reported that they suffered from burnout. Out of those, 21.8% reported suffering from a high-degree burnout.

It’s not hard to imagine that these frontline fighters suffered from burnouts during Covid, but it’s not just during a pandemic that the mental health of medical professionals suffers. Physicians, nurses, and other medical staff are more prone to burnout due to their work’s stressful and sensitive nature.

So, as a practice manager or owner, you have to find ways to improve your employees’ work/life balance and reduce staff burnouts in your clinic. As a bonus, reducing staff burnouts will help you prevent high employee turnover and low retention rates.

Lesson #3: Adequate staffing and flexible schedules

Adequate staff coverage and timely supply of resources (tools, empty beds, equipment, etc.) remain the two most significant challenges during the pandemic. Healthcare practices need to take a proactive approach instead of the current, reactive one to increase the patient care level and have adequate staff coverage.

Several things that could help your clinic have adequate staffing at all times are:

Flexibility in schedules
Offering flexible schedules, part-time work, shift work, or staff rotation are all things that can help you organize your essential personnel in a way that provides maximum productivity and patient care.

Mobilizing additional reinforcements
Another solution to the staffing shortage during Covid was mobilizing inactive medical professionals that have retired. Several countries struggled so much to provide enough coverage for the demand that they even trained and mobilized medical students in their final years.

A backup talent pool
One especially useful tactic for ensuring your clinic is always covered with trained staff is building a pool of talents. Having an on-demand medical workforce is priceless, especially in the post-Covid world. Clinics with a talent pool of on-call staff find it much easier to deal with last-minute changes or needs.

Lesson #4: Data and technology to optimize processes

To optimize workforce management in your practice, start by automating different processes. For that purpose, try to adopt new technologies and use tools like recruitment software, staff scheduling, time-tracking software, etc.

With the help of tools like that, you can automate time-consuming administrative processes and let your staff focus on patient care. Plus, these tools will gather data. Every digital transformation starts with data, and the same goes for healthcare workforce management.

And why data? Because it allows you to do a proper gap analysis and see how you can optimize processes.

Lesson #5: Cross-training or reskilling existing staff

Often, no matter how much you streamline the workforce management in your practice, you’ll still experience a shortage of professionals. To stay prepared in scenarios like these and ensure that critical patients always have medical coverage, you can provide ongoing training and reskilling possibilities to your medical staff.

During the initial Covid outbreak, the world didn’t just miss medical professionals – we missed trained professionals. Training your staff on different protocols and procedures is essential in intensive, critical care, or emergency care departments. A trained workforce knows what to do and has quick reaction times that can be lifesaving in healthcare.

On a final note

Covid-19 took us all by surprise, and as a result, we could see on a global scale how unprepared the healthcare system is to deal with emergencies. And, if there’s one main thing we learned it is the indispensable value of the healthcare workforce.

Hopefully, you can see these lessons that the Covid-19 pandemic taught us about workforce management in healthcare as opportunities to adapt and catch up with the changing needs of patient care.