In the United States, the healthcare industry is confronted with the intricate issue of workforce shortages, but a collaborative network of employers, educators, and healthcare partners such as NHA are actively engaged in working towards a solution. According to a striking data point from Becker's Hospital Review, the U.S. could encounter a shortage of more than 3.2 million allied healthcare workers, such as medical assistants, home health aides, and nursing assistants, within the following five years. Demographic shifts and the retirement of seasoned professionals exacerbate this situation.  

The Health Resources & Services Administrationhighlights the crucial need for an influx of healthcare practitioners across various specialties. The pandemic has accentuated and compounded the persistent workforce shortages in entry-level and allied healthcare positions.   

Healthcare employers are seeking innovative and sustainable solutions to address this predicament. The shortage extends to allied healthcare professionals, whose absence can intensify burnout among existing staff and deepen the crisis. Despite deploying various recruitment strategies, the need to fill vital roles persists. This challenge is not confined to local boundaries but resonates globally, affecting healthcare systems worldwide. 

So, how can healthcare employers strategically address this dual challenge of workforce shortages and healthcare worker burnout? Here are five innovative strategies to explore:  

Strategy 1: Harnessing the Untapped Potential of High School and CTE Health Science Programs  

Addressing the persistent healthcare workforce shortages necessitates innovative and long-term strategies, especially for entry-level and allied health positions. The Career and Technical Education (CTE) pipeline emerges as a pivotal reservoir of talent amidst this crisis. In the 2020-21 academic year, Health Science was the top career cluster among secondary and post-secondary CTE students. This data reflects a substantial pool of potential talent that could be instrumental in navigating the ongoing healthcare workforce crisis. 

For healthcare employers, tapping into high school and (CTE) health science programs offer a sustainable talent pipeline, enhancing workforce diversity, and providing cost-effective training solutions. As Patti Taylor, Director of Student Health Careers at Banner Health highlighted,  

"Our partnership with local CTE programs has been instrumental in shaping careers for young adults and building a resilient workforce." -Patti Taylor 

Engaging strategically with these programs, discussed below, allows employers to identify and nurture potential talent early, establish fruitful partnerships with educational institutions, and ultimately contribute to mitigating staff shortages and enhancing patient care. This approach alleviates immediate staffing concerns and fortifies the healthcare sector against future challenges by ensuring a consistent influx of skilled professionals. 

Strategy 2: Strengthening the Healthcare Workforce through Strategic Partnerships 

Building strategic partnerships is crucial for healthcare employers to tackle worker shortages. This helps secure a consistent supply of skilled professionals and tailored training for the demands of the industry. This proactive and collaborative approach facilitates a steady stream of qualified professionals. It ensures that the education and training they receive align with the healthcare sector's real-world demands and challenges. Let's explore strategic partnerships that can bolster the healthcare workforce: 

Engaging with School Advisory Boards 

Gain insights into curriculum development and connect with potential employees by participating in meetings, offering industry insights, and facilitating workshops or guest lectures to enhance students' practical knowledge. 

Forming Alliances with Educational Institutions 

Collaborate with educators to align curriculum with real-world healthcare needs. Offer internships or practical experiences for students. 

Collaborating with State-Level Educational Departments 

To meet workforce demands, healthcare employers can influence health science programs by engaging in committees, providing data on workforce needs, and advocating for vital skills and competencies in the healthcare sector.  

Connecting with Local Workforce Development Boards 

Communicate industry needs, identify potential funding opportunities, and explore avenues for collaborative initiatives by regularly attending board meetings and sharing insights on workforce trends. Additionally, explore collaborations to facilitate targeted training programs. 

Liaising with Governmental Entities 

To reduce healthcare workforce shortages and access more resources, collaborate with your state’s governor's office and other relevant governmental organizations to emphasize the significance of healthcare workforce development and discover potential partnerships or funding options. 

Strategy 3: Elevate and Upskill Your Best and Most Loyal Employees 

In the face of the healthcare workforce shortage, elevating and upskilling existing employees have become imperative strategies. Nikki Nissen, VP of Clinical Ops and CNO at Novant Health Medical Group shares a practical approach:  

“We have developed an entry-level clinical role, called a clinical care partner...Once they have successfully operated in this capacity for at least six months, we offer them to work toward becoming a clinical certified medical assistant (CCMA)…Both strategies are a career path for team member growth with no cost to the team member to participate. We have seen much success with retention with this rollout so far.” 

This strategy involves identifying internal talent, implementing upskilling programs using engaging allied healthcare learning solutions and certifications, and providing mentorship, recognition, and flexible learning paths. It also entails analyzing skills needs, developing tailored training, and fostering continuous learning. By investing in the professional development of existing staff, healthcare employers address immediate staffing needs and build a resilient and adaptable team, enhancing job satisfaction and patient care quality. This approach, which also involves creating a positive feedback loop through mentorship, fortifies the workforce and ensures the continual delivery of exemplary services amidst workforce challenges. 

Strategy 4: Accelerate and Support the Training to Practice Process 

In an environment where every moment counts, healthcare employers recognize the value of swiftly transitioning new employees from training to practice. Accelerating the training process doesn’t mean compromising on quality; instead, it involves a strategic approach to onboarding that is both efficient and effective. Utilizing certifications, exam prep, and learning solutions such as NHA’s medical assistant profession solutions, and partnering with Job Corps for specialized training programs can expedite this process, ensuring new staff are proficient and ready to fill roles effectively and immediately. This strategy meets immediate staffing needs and establishes a sustainable workforce development model for the future.  

In addition, it is crucial to create a supportive environment where new hires can apply their newly acquired skills in a practical setting, with access to mentors or coaches who can guide them through the initial stages of their role. Addressing workforce gaps quickly and ensuring new employees feel supported in their transition fosters a positive work environment and increases retention efforts. 

Strategy 5: Offer Opportunities for Career Growth Through Career Pathways 

Providing clear and attainable career pathways is pivotal in attracting new talent and retaining existing staff by offering them avenues for advancement, recognition and professional development. Career laddering, a structured approach to career development, allows employees to see a clear progression in their roles, understanding what is needed to move to the next level. As highlighted by Patti Taylor, Director of Student Health Careers at Banner Health 

"Career pathways at Banner provide our team members with the opportunity to achieve clinical roles they might not have thought possible before, increasing their pay and future career growth, without any out-of-pocket cost."  

Here are ways in which crafting and communicating clear career pathways can help build and maintain a strong healthcare workforce: 

  • Defining Pathways: Clearly outline the steps or milestones an employee needs to achieve to progress in their career within the organization. 
  • Skill Development: Ensure access to training and development opportunities that enable employees to acquire the necessary skills for advancement. Whether it’s stacking healthcare credentials or providing them with important learning resources. 
  • Recognition: Acknowledge and reward progress and achievements, reinforcing the value placed on career development. 
  • Support: Provide mentorship and guidance to navigate the career ladder effectively.
  • Flexibility: Allow employees to explore different roles within the healthcare setting, enhancing their skill set and keeping them engaged. 

 By implementing a well-structured career laddering system, healthcare employers not only enhance the professional development of their staff but also build a robust internal talent pool, ready to step into more advanced roles as they become available. This strategy, therefore, serves as a dual solution, addressing immediate staffing needs and ensuring a steady supply of skilled professionals in the long term. It's not just about filling a position; it's about providing a fulfilling career. 

Finding Your Sustainable Path for Developing the Healthcare Workforce of the Future 

Navigating the complexities of healthcare workforce shortages and mitigating the risks of burnout and compromised patient safety necessitates a strategic, multifaceted approach. Healthcare employers are confronted with the immediate challenge of filling crucial roles while considering the long-term implications of workforce development. The solution lies in a strategic blueprint that addresses the pressing needs of the present and lays a robust foundation for the future.  

Embracing innovative strategies such as leveraging high school and CTE programs, fortifying strategic partnerships, upskilling dedicated employees, hastening the training-to-practice transition, and crafting clear career pathways is imperative. These approaches immediately relieve staffing dilemmas and pave the way for a sustainable, skilled future workforce. By aligning these strategies with organizational objectives, healthcare employers can ensure the delivery of quality care, enhance employee satisfaction, and fortify the healthcare system against the persistent challenges that workforce shortages present. 

In this intricate journey, NHA emerges as a robust ally for healthcare employers. NHA provides a pivotal resource in addressing workforce needs by offering allied healthcare certifications and exam prep in eight allied healthcare professions that ensure new and upskilling employees meet industry standards, enhancing the quality of care and ensuring positive patient outcomes. An alliance with NHA provides a pathway to navigate the immediate challenges of workforce shortages and ensures a consistent, quality-driven approach to patient care amidst the ongoing challenges. 

Together, with strategic approaches and a collaborative partnership with the NHA, healthcare employers can navigate through the current healthcare workforce shortage, ensuring a proficient, passionate, and patient-focused team.  

Let’s Build a Resilient Healthcare Workforce Together: Explore how NHA can be your ally in navigating through workforce shortages, ensuring your team is not only prepared but proficient, passionate and patient-focused. Contact an NHA Advisor and let them build a flexible, engaging solution that’s right for your unique needs.