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4 Big Challenges Facing Healthcare HR Professionals

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Because their work is vital to the health and well-being of so many people, healthcare professionals face incredible levels of stress not found in other professions. And recent trends suggest the pressure will only increase.

So what role do HR departments play?

From small rural clinics to big city hospitals, healthcare human resources departments will also feel the pressure. These professionals face issues such as staff shortages, employee burnout, and more. To overcome these hurdles, HR needs to better understand the how and why behind each hurdle. Read on to learn about the four biggest challenges facing HR professionals today and, most importantly, what we can do about them.

1.Shortage of staff

One of the most pressing workforce issues in healthcare is recruitment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 203,700 new nurses will be needed each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and replace departing nurses. Additionally, it is estimated that a total of 1.2 million nursing positions will be unfilled by 2022.

There are a number of factors that contribute to this problem. Firstly, the increasing aging of the baby boomers is leading to a significant workload for medical professionals. The problem also impacts from within, as nurses of this generation begin to retire and leave the workforce in droves.

Add to this the limited capacity of nursing programs, and there is simply not enough supply to meet the growing demand. Faced with this shortage, employers are desperately trying to stand out from the competition and attract potential employees.

Compounding the problem is the shift toward millennials, whose priorities are very different from those of their predecessors. Unlike Baby Boomers and Generation X, who primarily sought competitive compensation, Millennials value benefits and advancement opportunities much more than their predecessors. This means employers looking to hire the next wave of medical professionals need to make changes now to appeal to their young applicants.

Some companies are already doing this by offering training, development and advancement opportunities, as well as competitive benefits packages, including tuition reimbursement. Additionally, experienced healthcare hiring managers are reaching out to their marketing teams and using lead generation tactics to capture the attention of qualified candidates.

2.Turnover rate

In addition to the staff shortage, hospitals and clinics are also struggling to retain the excellent employees they already have. With so many vacancies for healthcare professionals, it is all too easy for staff to leave if they are unhappy.

In recent years, the average fluctuation rate in hospitals has gradually increased. In 2018, hospitals experienced their highest turnover rate in over a decade, and since 2014, the average hospital has replaced 87.8% of its total workforce. And the numbers suggest things can only get worse.

These high turnover rates cost hospitals millions. The cost of replacing a bedside nurse is approximately $52,100, causing the average hospital to lose $4.4 million to $6.9 million per year.

There are mutliple reasons for this. As we mentioned, Millennials want more than just a paycheck when they enter the workforce. If they don't get what they want from their job - be it more training, career advancement, or a great benefits program - they feel confident about leaving.

The biggest problem, however, could be the supervisors. Maureen Swick, CEO of the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), puts it this way: "In my experience, people don't leave their organizations, they leave their managers. That's why nurse leadership is critical and has a significant impact Impact on employee retention and recruitment. Effective nursing managers ensure their employees feel supported and guided."

Hospital and clinic human resources can help retain nurses by responding to the changing needs of the workforce, making their organizations more attractive to current employees, and ensuring supervisor-employee relationships thrive.

3.Employee burnout

The problem of employee burnout is intertwined with the problem of staff shortages and turnover.

Burnout is caused in part by staff shortages and has a compounding effect on employee turnover. Additionally, burnout negatively impacts both patient care and patient safety because emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion leaves providers (including doctors and nurses) unable to perform at their best.

Recent surveys have shown that the burnout rate for nurses is as high as 70 percent, while the burnout rate for doctors and nurses can be as high as 50 percent. These statistics reflect an epidemic whose consequences include poorer patient health. There is a significant connection between these burnout rates and the increase in patient infection rates. Patients can also see the effects of burnout: They report lower levels of satisfaction in facilities where burnout rates are higher.

These lower satisfaction rates could be the result of emotional distance on the part of clinical staff. Burnout typically leads to estrangement between providers and patients, with providers developing an unfriendly, cynical, and less empathetic attitude. This distance leads to less understanding of patients' needs and leaves everyone involved dissatisfied with the experience.

There are several other factors that contribute to burnout, such as  the feeling of being underestimated, under challenged and lack of authority. Often nurses feel like they could do more but are not allowed to. Workload also has a lot to do with burnout rates. A survey found that 90 percent of nurses said they do not have enough time to care for patients and their families because they have too many patients to care for.

It is a complicated problem with sometimes serious consequences.

Human resources managers must be aware of the impact that an overworked and under resourced workforce can have on patient care. There is currently a nationwide push for safe staffing legislation that would require hospitals to keep nurse-to-patient ratios within safe limits.

In the meantime, healthcare HR managers can mitigate some of the burnout problem through reward and recognition strategies, as well as training programs to increase employee job satisfaction.

4.Training and development

As previously mentioned, today's medical workforce wants to learn new skills and gain access to advancement opportunities.

This type of employee engagement is an important responsibility of human resources in the healthcare industry.

Many healthcare workers want to advance their careers by training to become nurses, doctors or care managers, and they are increasingly expecting support from their employers in this journey.

Providing the professional development opportunities employees want can be costly, but the costs of hiring and training replacements are far higher. Training employees is an investment that pays off on the other side, both in the form of retained employees and in their increased skills.

With the proliferation of electronic, internet-enabled devices in the workplace, hospitals and clinics have begun to transition to digital systems to track patient charts, manage workflows, educate and entertain patients, and keep professionals in touch with those they care for.

While this is all good news, the challenge is that every system comes with a learning curve and requires training to use it, let alone see a return on investment. Such systems require a high level of support from management to promote adoption among the employees who will actually use them.

HR managers need to be aware that such systems are becoming increasingly common in the industry. It is also important to note that the functional responsibilities of the healthcare human resources department may include implementing new training within their own organization.

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, HR professionals face formidable challenges, from staffing shortages and turnover to employee burnout and the imperative for continuous training. IceHrm stands as a reliable partner, offering comprehensive solutions to address these challenges, ensuring a resilient and thriving healthcare workforce.

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