Staffing: Why Is This Still So Difficult?

Episode 71: Staffing: Why Is This Still So Difficult?

Welcome to today’s episode of the Medical Money Matters Podcast, brought to you by Health e Practices, where we dive deep into the world of medical group finance and operations to uncover the insights that help your practice thrive in today’s challenging environment. Today, we’re tackling a topic that’s been on the forefront of every medical group administrator’s mind: Staffing. Why is this so difficult?

In the wake of the pandemic, the healthcare industry faces unprecedented staffing challenges. From the scramble for qualified professionals to the evolving landscape of patient care needs, medical groups nationwide are feeling the pressure. But why exactly is staffing proving to be such a Herculean task, and more importantly, what can we do about it?

Our goal today is to navigate these turbulent waters together. We’ll examine the latest national employment statistics, delve into the specific challenges faced by healthcare support positions, and arm ourselves with knowledge and strategies to overcome these hurdles.

Let’s begin by understanding the landscape with some national employment statistics. To set the stage, let’s look at the broader picture. Post-pandemic, the national unemployment rate has been fluctuating, reflecting a job market in recovery mode. Yet, this recovery hasn’t been uniform across all sectors. Specifically, the healthcare sector has seen a slower rebound, with healthcare support positions facing a unique set of challenges.

In healthcare, the demand for professionals has skyrocketed, but the supply hasn’t kept pace. According to recent data, while the general unemployment rate inches closer to pre-pandemic levels, healthcare support roles still face a significant gap between available positions and qualified staff to fill them. This discrepancy highlights the sector’s struggle to attract and retain talent in a competitive landscape.

The pandemic didn’t just create a temporary disruption; it fundamentally altered the job market. For healthcare, it meant a sudden and sustained increase in demand for services, coupled with an equally significant strain on existing staff. Job seekers across industries are now prioritizing flexibility, work-life balance, and competitive compensation more than ever before – trends that pose additional challenges for traditional healthcare roles that demand high physical presence and long hours.

As we think about challenges in medical group staffing, first and foremost is the current competition for qualified staff. It has become one of the most pressing issues due to the fierce competition for qualified staff. With an aging population and the expansion of telehealth services, the demand for healthcare professionals has never been higher. However, the allure of remote work in other sectors and the broader corporate world’s competitive benefits packages have made it increasingly difficult for medical groups to attract the talent they need. Healthcare professionals are leaving in droves for other sectors, and that trend does not look to be slowing.

Then there’s the issue of burnout. Even before the pandemic, healthcare was a high-stress field. The past few years have only exacerbated this, leading to increased burnout rates among healthcare workers. This not only affects the well-being of staff but also leads to higher turnover rates, forcing medical groups to continually recruit and train new employees, a cycle that drains resources and affects continuity of care. Recruiting and training new employees is far more expensive than we realize, with conservative estimates being 50 –75% of the annual salary. For most healthcare positions, that averages: $30,000 per position that you are recruiting for. This is why you are hearing human resources professionals leaning in on retention strategies. We’ll cover more on that in our next episode.

The healthcare sector is also grappling with rapidly evolving skill requirements. The rise of digital health technologies, for instance, requires staff not only to have traditional clinical skills but also to be adept with new technologies and flexible in adapting to changing workflows. This dual need places additional pressure on staffing, as candidates with these hybrid skills are in high demand across all sectors.

Finally, economic pressures compound these staffing challenges. Rising operational costs, coupled with the complexities of healthcare reimbursement, which is in many cases, declining, make it challenging for medical groups to offer competitive salaries and benefits. This financial squeeze makes attracting and retaining top talent even more challenging, creating a negative loop that can threaten the viability of practices struggling to keep pace with the market demands.

As we navigate the complexities of staffing in a post-pandemic world, it’s essential to pivot towards innovative and sustainable solutions. Here are several strategies that can help medical groups overcome the challenges we’ve discussed:

Solution 1: Leveraging the MIT Living Wage Calculator
One of the first steps in attracting and retaining quality staff is understanding and offering competitive wages. The MIT Living Wage Calculator is an invaluable tool in this regard. It provides detailed insights into the living wage in each state by county, helping employers to set salaries that not only attract top talent but also support their well-being. By aligning compensation with the cost of living, medical groups can position themselves as employers of choice, crucial in today’s competitive job market. It can be found online at: Our leadership team reviewed this recently for each of our team members, and have made some adjustments so we’re confident that we’re compensating our team well, and that we remain an employer of choice.

Solution 2: Quality over Quantity
In the quest for staffing solutions, the principle of “quality over quantity” holds significant weight. Hiring fewer, but more skilled and well-compensated employees can yield better outcomes than a larger workforce that’s less engaged. High-quality staff members are more likely to be invested in their roles, reducing turnover and enhancing patient care. This approach not only fosters a positive workplace culture but also proves to be cost-effective in the long run through decreased hiring and training expenses. Again, as we discussed in Episode 22 about Igniting Commitment in the interview with Joe Mull, author of Employalty, working to make your group a destination workplace is the key.

Solution 3: Investing in Staff Development
Another key strategy is to invest in staff development and professional growth opportunities. Continuous learning and development programs can empower employees, equip them with the latest skills, and prepare them for the evolving demands of healthcare. Offering pathways for advancement within the organization not only enhances staff engagement but also attracts ambitious professionals looking for careers with growth potential. This investment in your team is an investment in the quality of care provided to your patients. If you don’t yet have a formal staff development plan in place for each of your employees, now is the time to start. They will get your investment in them, and it’ll strengthen their resolve to stay.

Solution 4: Emphasizing Work-Life Balance
Lastly, emphasizing work-life balance is crucial. Innovative scheduling, remote work options for applicable roles, and comprehensive health and wellness benefits can make a significant difference in staff satisfaction and retention. By prioritizing the well-being of your team, you’re not only enhancing their quality of life but also building a resilient workforce that can maintain high levels of patient care. Have you evaluated your benefits structure against the market recently? Innovative medical groups are offering new and different benefits to attract and retain the highest quality talent. Many groups are offering 4 10 hour days for onsite staff, and many are creating remote jobs that can be full time, or on offer to staff to rotate through, giving them a hybrid schedule. Gone are the days where everyone is on site M-F, 8-5. Time to get creative!

Implementing these solutions requires a strategic approach and commitment at all levels of the organization. Start by conducting a comprehensive assessment of your current staffing model and compensation packages. Engage with your team to understand their needs and expectations. Then, develop a phased plan to introduce changes, focusing on quick wins that can generate momentum.

Leadership buy-in is essential for driving these changes. Leaders must champion the shift towards a more sustainable staffing model and create a culture that supports innovation and adaptability. Transparency about the changes and their benefits can help garner support from the entire organization. Be sure that all of your partners are on board before you start. Grumbling from the physicians can be the quickest way to demoralize staff.

Consider the example of a mid-sized medical group that implemented a comprehensive staff development program. By offering regular training sessions, access to online courses, and opportunities for professional certification, they not only improved staff satisfaction but also saw a marked improvement in patient satisfaction scores. This investment in their team led to a positive upward cycle of improvement and growth for both their staff and their practice.

Another case study involves a medical group that restructured its compensation model based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator. By adjusting wages to meet living wage standards and introducing flexible working arrangements, they were able to significantly reduce turnover rates and attract a more skilled and dedicated workforce.

By embracing these strategies and focusing on the well-being and development of your staff, your medical group can navigate the staffing challenges of the post-pandemic world. At Medical Money Matters, we’re committed to supporting medical groups in this journey, offering insights and strategies to build a resilient and thriving healthcare practice.

Thank you for joining us today. Together, we can tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead, ensuring a brighter future for healthcare providers and patients alike. Stay tuned for our next episode, where we’ll explore more insights into employee retention strategies for the new era.

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