Cover Story

Overcoming the Staffing Crisis in Medical Practices

A look at how and why practices are having trouble staying fully staffed—and suggestions for how to deal with this problem.

Medical practices are not immune to the understaffing crisis currently hitting many sectors of the economy. This is a significant problem, but there are steps that you and your practice can take to work through it.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. healthcare industry experienced a sharp increase in job openings over the last year, rising from 857,000 in April 2020 to just over 1.5 million this June. And while the number of healthcare job openings is high, the unemployment rate for healthcare workers is very low at just 1.8%, well below the national unemployment rate of 5.4%. This makes recruitment particularly competitive just when practices most need to fill positions. Understaffed practices run the risk of employee burnout and resignations, reduced ability to meet patient needs, and potential liability concerns. To survive this crisis, practice leaders must be diligent and creative.

We have identified several strategies that practice leaders can follow to address this crisis. These solutions fall under three categories:

  1. Recruiting: Recruiting more talented staff is essential to succeeding in this challenging environment. We recommend several solutions:

    • First, practices should consider ways to be flexible about work arrangements that could attract the broadest possible pool of candidates. Ask yourself if there are ways to accommodate part-time work in addition to full-time, if you can adjust operating hours to find a reasonable overlap between patient needs and those of employees (for example, a longer lunch break), and if you can be flexible about work schedules to accommodate candidates who may need to start and/or end their work days at non-traditional times.
    • You may also wish to look at your employee referral program. Are you offering strong enough incentives to employees who refer candidates? Are there ways to expand the program to other stakeholders in your practice beyond employees?
    • Finally, we urge practice leaders to dedicate someone with the responsibility for constantly scanning for new talent, because starting a recruiting process only once it’s needed can take a very long time. These individuals can be internal employees or external, such as from a staffing agency.
  2. Candidate Engagement: Once you have identified a strong candidate in the recruiting process, effectively managing their candidacy is essential. Here are a few key ways to do that:

    • Start from the assumption that all well-qualified applicants are likely receiving offers from multiple employers. As soon as you identify a candidate you wish to hire, you will need to be prepared to make a strong offer right away.
    • Prepare for a possible negotiation by knowing the highest compensation you can accept for the role and any other incentives you’ll be willing to offer. A practice that is not prepared to respond quickly in the case of a negotiation is a practice that runs the risk of losing a strong candidate to another opportunity.
  3. Retention: Retaining good employees is a matter of practice culture, and understanding how to keep employees engaged is key. Here’s how:

    • Try to understand as much as you can about your staff’s mindset and needs from their employer. Do you know what satisfies your team and what they may be dissatisfied about? Are you taking action to show employees that you hear their concerns and are responding to them? We recommend that practice leaders have an open-door policy for team members who wish to share their thoughts about their work environment. We also strongly encourage practices to implement formal, anonymous avenues for feedback, whether through traditional engagement surveys or quick “pulse surveys” to find out quickly what is on people’s minds.
    • Being aware of how the practice is discussed on social media and online rating sites can help you be aware not only of your patients’ concerns, but also offer insight into your employees’ needs—and how to meet them.

The staffing environment is challenging right now, but with a few key steps, your practice can be well on the way to retaining your employees, filling open positions, and weathering this staffing storm. The Curi team is here to help; call us at 800-662-7917 if you’d like to discuss this issue.

Letter From the CEO

Summer 2021

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