Short Staffed: Solutions to Adapt to the Shortage of Healthcare Workers

December 6, 2023
Giselle Bardwell
Working as a healthcare professional while short staffed can be challenging and stressful. You may be overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do and may be worried about the quality of care you are able to provide to your patients. 

However, there are steps you can take to manage the situation and ensure that you and your colleagues are able to provide the best care possible.

Transparently Discuss the Medical Staffing Situation

First and foremost, it is important to communicate with your colleagues and management about the staffing shortage. They may not be aware of the extent of the problem, and by bringing it to their attention, you can work together to find a solution. 

Ways to have a productive discussion regarding healthcare short staffing:
  • When engaging management, bring facts, not opinions. 
  • Understand that the likely driving factor in staffing decisions is money (i.e., cost and its effect on profitability)
  • Remain calm to ensure you communicate clearly.
  • Research and think through ideas for solutions to fix the problem.
  • Schedule a time to talk to ensure they are focused on your conversation.
You should also be open to feedback and suggestions from your colleagues and management, as they may have ideas on how to alleviate the shortage. You may see the immediate need for another hire, they may want to engage a nursing staffing agency first. Have honest conversations to ensure all parties are satisfied with the compromise.

Re-evaluate Workloads to Cover Short Staffing

One option to consider is reorganizing your workload to make the most of the staff you have available. This may involve redistributing tasks among team members or prioritizing certain tasks over others. It may also involve seeking assistance from other departments or external organizations.

Some examples of ways to reorganize workloads:
  • Switch tasks to different shifts: If 3rd shift has a bit of extra bandwidth, see how they can prep to help out 1st shift.
  • Adjust recurring tasks by day: If there are tasks that have typically been done every day on Tuesday but Tuesday’s shift is swamped, consider moving it to Wednesdays. 
  • Play to employees’ strengths: If one healthcare worker can process paperwork faster than their counterpart, it may be beneficial to reallocate the tasks. 

It’s important to note that when reassessing workloads, to balance the amount of work being done to avoid burnout. Healthcare worker burnout will lead to more short staffing issues, worsening your situation.

Enter Maintenance Mode for Short Staffed Departments

In addition to reorganizing your workload, you should also be proactive in taking care of yourself and your colleagues. It is essential to practice self-care, as the added stress and workload can take a toll on your physical and mental health. 

This may involve taking breaks when possible, getting enough rest, and engaging in activities that help you relax and recharge. You should also encourage your colleagues to do the same, and make sure that you are providing a supportive and compassionate work environment.

This should translate into your home life as well. Support at home, outsourcing tasks such as grocery shopping and taking time for self-care will allow you to recharge and enjoy time with friends and family versus doing more work.

Engage a Supplemental Healthcare Staffing Company

Another option to consider is seeking temporary staffing solutions, such as hiring temporary or contract workers. This can help to fill the gap until the staffing shortage is resolved. However, it is important to ensure that these workers are properly trained and have the necessary skills and experience to provide high-quality care.

Medical staffing agencies, such as BrightStar Care Cleveland, thoroughly screen and evaluate staff based on the highest quality and character standards. Read more about our rigorous hiring protocol here

Temporary healthcare staffing agencies can help fill gaps in your workforce quickly and seamlessly. Possible positions range from clinical nurses to medical receptionists to physical therapists. For a full list of the positions BrightStar Cleveland supports, please visit our comprehensive roster here.

Implement Technology for Medical Office Efficiency

You may also want to consider implementing technology solutions to help reduce the workload and improve efficiency. For example, you could use electronic medical records to streamline documentation and communication, or implement automated systems for tasks such as medication administration.

Technology can be a great time saver but it’s worth noting that researching, testing and huge changes in your workflows may eat up more time when it comes to implementation. 

However, the time saving benefits can be seen relatively quickly and improve as users become more comfortable with the change. Employing a 3rd party IT company may be a great way to reduce implementation time, ensure seamless onboarding and offer additional support and recommendations, as needed.

Have Honest Conversations About Short Staffing in Healthcare

Finally, it is important to keep your patients and their families informed about the staffing shortage and any resulting changes to their care plan. It is essential to be transparent and honest with them, and to reassure them that you are doing everything you can to provide the best care possible. You should also encourage them to be proactive in their own care and to speak up if they have any concerns.

It may seem counterintuitive to alert patients to a potential issue but typically they are intuitive and realize there are problems. Think of it like visiting a restaurant. If the hostess says the wait is 10 minutes and you wait an hour for your table, you’re going to become frustrated. Setting clear expectations on timing, communications and any other areas where there could be potential delay, will keep patients in the loop and most of the time, they will be understanding.

In conclusion, if you are short staffed as a healthcare professional, it can be difficult and tiring. However, by communicating with your colleagues and management and patients, reorganizing your workload, taking care of yourself and your colleagues, seeking temporary staffing solutions, and implementing technology solutions, you can manage the situation and ensure that you are able to provide the best care possible to your patients.

If you’re interested in learning more about how BrightStar Care Cleveland can support your healthcare business, give us a call at 440.613.1500 or contact us via our website. From supplemental to permanent staffing solutions, we’re here for you.