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3 Challenges HR is Facing in Healthcare

It is no secret that in today’s fast-paced business landscape, human resources departments across different industries are all having to adapt to changing variables that impact their work, and the same holds true for HR professionals that have chosen to specialise in healthcare. Following our article on why healthcare personnel require soft skills, this piece focuses on three key issues that are shaping the way workers are being hired and managed in healthcare.

Healthcare: A Sector Under Siege

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare HR departments were already dealing with issues such as shortages of doctors and nurses, a drop in retention rates, staff burnout, and an increase in labour costs. In the medical field, these factors not only affect the professionals involved; its impact extends to the patients and people put in the care of medical staff, and even affects the fiscal integrity of our healthcare systems.

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The US Bureau of Labour Statistics recorded an average of 4 years tenure for professionals in the education and health services industries. Source: Fit Small Business.

Additionally, the HR department of your average medical facility today deals with matters beyond hiring and firing – they are equipped to develop training programmes, enforce safety measures for facilities, and they even play a key part in ensuring that confidential information – such as patient and employee records – are kept secure. In an industry where employee retention and consistency for patients is key, HR staff are instrumental in developing compensation plans and creating schedules to ensure that employee burnout is kept a minimum.

With all these variables in play, it is safe to say that HR teams in the healthcare industry face a daunting task when it comes to the hiring, training, and retention of skilled workers.

Challenge 1: Staffing

Last month, CNN reported on the state of the US healthcare industry and specifically highlighted a 2021 report conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which estimated that by 2034, the field will face a shortage of 124,000 physicians. While this statistic reveals a scary future for the regular healthcare needs of the country’s population, it also shows that medical facilities and their teams are likely unable to handle another possible pandemic.

As a result, various US states are now boosting healthcare recruitment efforts, loosening licensing requirements, and expanding their training programmes for personnel, as well as raising the salaries of workers. Additionally, medical facilities are also turning to technology to help with hiring efforts; platforms that provide real-time views of staffing needs help them to anticipate how many workers are required and where, while hiring platforms that can screen candidates ahead of time are shortening the recruitment process.

Challenge 2: Burnout

As aforementioned, effective scheduling can help to reduce employee burnout, especially in an industry where patients expect their physicians, nurses, and other healthcare personnel to be constantly on call for support. Researchers at Stanford noted that the burnout level amongst healthcare workers drastically increased during the pandemic, with the number of workers reporting at least one burnout symptom rising from 38.2% in 2020 to 62.8% in 2021. Even as COVID-19 pandemic worries subsided in 2022, staffing agency Incredible Health reported that amongst nurses specifically, over a third (34%) of nurses were planning to quit their job last year, with 40% planning to pursue nursing roles in other facilities, and another 32% planning to retire or leave the field.

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In 2019, these factors contributed to healthcare worker burnout. Source: Etactics.

There are measures HR professionals can take to reduce burnout. Encouraging workers to practice basic self-care, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, and having a good sleep routine will help staff to feel ready for the unique obstacles they face in their line of work. Beyond supporting workers with advice, HR teams can also look into incorporating employee health and well-being into their company’s core values. In terms of technology, the use of data analytics for scheduling needs will boost an employee’s outlook, particularly when the gaps in time between their shifts also gives them time to decompress. Aside from this, data analytics can help HR staff to identify the key pressure points being faced by personnel and what makes them stay with a facility or leave it.

Challenge 3: The Safety of Patients and Employees

For the majority of cases, poor patient safety can be boiled down to insufficient training for healthcare workers or a failure to follow procedures. This can be mitigated by providing adequate training and supervision, something that is managed by HR and implemented by more senior staff members at any facility. However, the safety of employees also something that needs to be heavily considered by HR teams. In 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that there were 221,400 work-related injuries and illnesses suffered by US healthcare workers, equating to a rate of 5.5 work-related incidents for every 100 full-time employees. These occurrences stem from a wide range of hazards, as noted by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), including exposure to sharps (needles), chemicals and drugs, back injuries, latex allergies, violence, and stress. Furthermore, the risk of workplace assaults against healthcare workers is four times more than for employees in other fields according to OSHA.

While there is no set method for hospitals and medical facilities to address these problems, their HR professionals must step up and ensure training is provided to new and existing workers in line with OSHA standards. Another measure to take is to ensure all safety policies and procedures are regularly updated and to coordinate with the department managing these facilities in order to conduct audits on potential hazards in the workplace environment.

In Changing Times, the Ability to Adapt is Key for HR Professionals

The above are just three factors impacting the work of HR teams in the healthcare industry, and as we move on from a truly traumatic pandemic, fresh issues and challenges will appear. As with all industries, technology – and its efficient use by HR personnel – will help to shape the course of hiring, training, and developing healthcare workers. According to Accenture’s Digital health Technology Vision Report 2022, 97% of healthcare executives believe that continuous advances in technology are becoming more reliable than economic, political, or social trends in informing their company’s long-term strategy.

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In 2022, 60% of healthcare providers are known to have embraced the use of big data in their organizations. Source: Statista, via SaaSworthy.

Aside from truly embracing platforms such as ones that store electronic medical records (EMRs) and monitor staff performance, HR workers must be willing and able to provide training for other healthcare employees so that they too can adapt. Another key asset to look out for will be potential employees that are already come with the requisite tech skills, which makes transitioning to utilising online platforms and databases that much easier.