As a health care staffing company, we are constantly being asked to help fill needs for providers around the country. When a hospital loses a physician it can often take a year or longer to find a permanent replacement. What does a small rural hospital do when they lose their only surgeon or their only OB goes out on maternity leave? Not having those providers affects the hospital, its staff, and more importantly its patients. Replacing or covering for them is also a huge task.
Add physician turnover to an ongoing physician shortage and staffing a health care facility can be very difficult. This is where having a strong staffing plan is vital to your success. So whether you have never had one or create one every year, here are five tips to make your plans more effective.
1. Identify needs and challenges
Start by talking with your various departments to find out their needs. Are they expecting growth or do they plan to downsize? This is also a chance to identify which specialties are most difficult to staff as well as how any upcoming retirements might affect your teams. You should then map out a needs assessment (there are loads of free needs assessment tools available online if you need help) with each department stakeholder and determine your replacement or growth needs for the next 12 months.
2. Research, research, research
After identifying your needs, it is time for research. A good place to start is evaluating the resident/fellow outlook by specialty so you can determine if you can meet your needs with new physicians versus finding a physician that is already practicing. Another important aspect of research is determining what a competitive benefits package looks like for your geographic area. Evaluate your in-house resources, staffing partners, and get to know the pros and cons of your location and facility to ensure you’re offering an enticing package.
3. Use multiple solutions
Depending on your size and location, the physician shortage may affect your facility in some areas more than others. Don’t underestimate the value of retired and semi-retired physicians, as you can consider re-engaging them for part-time work.
If you are able to be flexible with schedule and hours, you can also look to the other end of the spectrum and bring them on permanently. Late-career or post-retirement age physicians can bring value experience that could help your team.
Another solution is taking advantage of advanced practitioners, such as PAs and NPs that may help you fill gaps and meet evolving needs. More and more facilities are turning to them as a cost-effective way to meet demand. Locum tenens physicians, NPs and PAs can also provide a reliable and flexible solution, especially in times of unexpected staffing gaps.
4. Involve your staff
There are two benefits in talking to your staff. First off, you get good information from the people most affected by staffing decisions. Secondly, by involving them in discussion about staffing needs, you also have the opportunity to talk to them about their workload and level of burnout and how that may affect your plan. Talking to your staff about burnout is a great way to identify and stop the actions that are causing it before it becomes a bigger problem.
5. Create a flexible plan
Even the best plans need to accommodate the inevitability of change. While your facility may experience growth, there may also be things like unanticipated retirements or staff departures.
For this reason, constant reevaluation is critical. If you’ve included physicians and other staff members in the conversation, you’ll often have a better view of the future. By considering all angles of the staffing puzzle, such as retaining current staff, re-engaging physicians who are experiencing burnout, and having plans for unexpected events you can better prepare for the future.
If you have any comments on this article email [email protected]. We'll publish the best ones!