This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Healthcare organizations everywhere confront unprecedented staffing shortages and challenges. Though the pandemic exacerbated existential issues across the industry, the fact is that both retaining key talent and recruiting to bridge gaps have been mounting problems for some time. So what strategies do leaders need to implement to begin course correction?
In this episode of the Memora Health Care Delivery Podcast, we talk with Jaime Warren, Vice President of Care Transformation at MedAxiom, about why healthcare continues to face staffing shortages and how to retain teams to overcome them.
Staffing shortages go beyond nurses and clinicians
Although nurses were specifically at-risk for burnout and leaving the field entirely during COVID, Jaime argues that the industry is seeing these troubling trends extend to other parts of the workforce.
Jaime says, “Staffing is a whole other animal now … In the thick of COVID, we were seeing a severe shortage in nursing. And [in] the allied health professions, we didn’t hear too much — they were hanging on … Fast forward to today, and we’re seeing a significant shortage in allied health professions.”
These positions include ultrasound technicians, hygienists, diagnostic medical sonographers, dieticians, and more. Jaime suggests these roles need to be better understood during recruitment, adding, “There’s a misconception with these allied health professions that they’re entry-level positions, [but] these positions do have an educational pathway [that requires a degree and board certification] … Shifting the culture of what an allied health profession is and highlighting it in a different way is going to help us with this staffing shortage and identifying the right candidates for these jobs.”
Retaining care teams is all about culture
Filling in staffing gaps is one thing. But organizations also have to invest time and resources into building their internal cultures to reinforce care team resilience to reduce turnover and retain talent.
One key ingredient is ensuring everyone feels respected. Jamie explains, “One of the things that’s a hot topic right now is making sure we use the right verbiage to call people what they are. What is their professional title that actually describes them? … Being able to articulate really what their background is and being able to use the right verbiage for their scope of practice goes a really long way.”
Another critical aspect of building resilient cultures is including people from across the organization in making important decisions. Jaime cites imaging as an example, remarking, “Sometimes in the imaging world, they feel like they’re in the dark, [but] they’re part of that patient care team. It’s important to include them in discussions about changes in policies or procedures…”
Healthcare AI is here to help clinicians — not replace them
Introducing a new digital healthcare tool — like intelligent care enablement platforms — to care teams can be tricky. Jaime suggests even broaching the subject of AI can raise alarms for staff. But the best way to generate buy-in for helpful healthtech from workers is to shift the conversation from replacement to assistance.
Jaime says, “Anytime someone reads the word ‘AI’ from a physician perspective and a staffing perspective, they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, will I be out of a job?”. The answer is ‘No.’ Maybe 30 years from now, when it becomes very advanced, we may see different ways of doing workflows. But really it’s more of a collaborative partnership.”
The more leaders can convey how forward-thinking innovations can support — not substitute — experienced staff members by taking routine tasks off of their plates, the better care teams can leverage digital healthcare to advance care delivery in an evolving industry.