Dealing with Healthcare Staffing Shortages in 2024

April 15, 2024 • 4 minute read

Last year, the Royal College of Nursing reported that the NHS waiting list was growing 4 times faster than the nurse workforce.  In the US, projections show that more than 6.5 million healthcare professionals will permanently leave their positions by 2026, while only 1.9 million will enter the workforce to replace them, creating a shortage […]

Last year, the Royal College of Nursing reported that the NHS waiting list was growing 4 times faster than the nurse workforce. 

In the US, projections show that more than 6.5 million healthcare professionals will permanently leave their positions by 2026, while only 1.9 million will enter the workforce to replace them, creating a shortage of more than 4 million workers. 

In Australia, there’s expected to be a shortage of 100,000 nursing staff by 2025.

All around the world, reports like these signal a looming global crisis for an already understaffed industry, as the field braces for even greater pressures in the years to come.

There are many factors that contribute to these staffing challenges, with bottlenecks going as far back as the undergraduate level. Lengthy, costly and demanding courses deter many from pursuing careers in the medical field. In the US, there’s been a decline in students applying to medical school, reflecting the rigours of the courses.

Those who do enter the field are met with demanding working conditions—long hours and fewer days off—compounded by the increasing number of patients, including those from seasonal fluctuations, ageing populations and the rise of chronic diseases. Some face stagnant career growth and organisational dissatisfaction, contributing to high levels of burnout.

The silver lining is that while practice owners may not have control over factors like medical school enrollments that lead to shortages, there are proactive steps they can take to retain staff and prevent sudden gaps in their teams.

Strategies For Managing Short Staffing

Regardless of your practice’s location, staffing shortages have likely posed challenges at one point or another. Unfortunately, projections indicate that this issue is only expected to worsen. 

Addressing these concerns requires a two-pronged approach. First, you need strategies to prevent your already stretched-thin staff from dwindling further. Second, you must adapt workflows to function effectively even with a reduced team.

In this section, we discuss approaches that address both aspects.

Provide Telehealth Services

Running in-person consultations can be quite demanding—it’s not just the clinical staff, but also the administrative work needed to ensure everything runs smoothly. Introducing telehealth options for non-urgent appointments can help ease this burden and give practices more flexibility. This means clinicians don’t always have to travel, and practices can manage with a smaller team. Plus, with the internet being such a big part of daily life, it’s easier for people, especially those in remote areas, to access telehealth services.

Telehealth also ties into providing flexible scheduling options, like part-time or remote work arrangements. This way, practices can attract top talent and cater to different staffing needs. By promoting a better work-life balance, practices can tackle one of the main reasons professionals leave the medical field: burnout and long hours.

Contingency Planning

Having a well-defined plan for operations when your staff is stretched thin is crucial. This could involve various strategies, such as partnering with temporary staffing services for swift gap mitigation on a short-term basis or implementing cross-training initiatives to equip existing staff members with the versatility to undertake essential responsibilities across various roles.  Empowering employees with diverse skill sets enables practices to minimise the impact of sudden staffing shortages and maintain continuity of care.

Foster a Culture of Feedback and Evaluation

Provide your staff with a platform for sharing feedback, both vertically to upper management and horizontally to team members, to encourage engagement and collaboration.

Make use of surveys to gather insights and identify areas for improvement, then take proactive steps to address the challenges raised. Create a supportive environment where mental health is openly discussed and compassionately addressed, building loyalty to the practice.

Regular performance evaluations and feedback sessions offer invaluable opportunities to celebrate achievements, pinpoint areas for growth and align individual goals with organisational objectives. These evaluations also enable you to identify any skill gaps among your employees, allowing you to address them proactively before they become significant issues.

As employees feel valued and heard, they become advocates for your practice and can complement your recruitment efforts by recommending their colleagues to join your team.

Staff Training and Development

Provide ample opportunities for your staff to enhance their skills and knowledge. This will ease the burden on clinical staff and promote a culture of continuous improvement. 

Hiring interns for the on-job training is also a great way that you can build your talent pipeline in preparation for future recruitment needs and shortages.

Encouraging registered nurses and other clinical staff to assume more specialised roles, such as prescribing and diagnosing, can alleviate the burden of responsibilities on doctors. Conversely, tasks such as feeding, cleaning and low-level administrative work can be delegated to less credentialed workers, optimising the allocation of responsibilities within the healthcare team.

Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that all employees are maximising their potential, and that they’re equipped with diverse skills and capabilities, so your practice can adapt to changing staffing needs and thrive in high-pressure environments.

Invest in a Good Practice Management Software

A comprehensive Practice Management Software (PMS) is essential for efficient resource allocation based on staff capability and availability. Using a PMS, practices can ensure that tasks are distributed evenly, avoiding the overburdening of one class of employees. Additionally, in the event of personal emergencies or unexpected absences, a good PMS facilitates easy reassignment of tasks, ensuring continuity of operations without disrupting patient care.

A PMS also enables practices to track goals and setbacks seamlessly. With features like progress monitoring and performance metrics, practices can keep up with staff productivity and easily identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach allows for informed decision-making and proactive management of practice operations.

Meddbase applications are designed to support healthcare providers in effectively managing and retaining top talent for every position, while prioritising clinician satisfaction throughout their careers.


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