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Read this and be very scared — The Hospital Industry’s Report on the Shortage Declares War on Nursing as We Know It

CHICAGO – In a recently released report, the American Hospital Association discussed findings on hospital workforce issues explored by its Long-Range Policy Committee, and offered a 10-point plan for dealing with a tight labor market.

The committee looked ahead to the next decade and identified recommendations that hospitals and their associations might use to develop successful strategies to ensure an adequate workforce.

Using as background the latest research on workforce demographics and trends, as well as presentations by health care experts, the committee found that while hospitals generally face low vacancies today, serious shortages and a tight labor market overall are looming.

The committee’s report, titled Workforce 2015: Strategy Trumps Shortage, describes how hospitals face the overlapping challenges of attracting and retaining replacements for retiring workers, expanding its workforce to care for an aging population, the greater demand for information technology professionals while coping with significant changes in healthcare delivery.

Meeting those challenges requires new thinking about the workforce and workplace, and new strategies about managing human resources, the AHA report concluded.

Following is a summary of the AHA’s recommendations:

1. A. In a tight labor market, the keys to maintaining an adequate workforce by number and skill are:

  • Redesigning work processes and introducing new technologies to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and employee satisfaction,
  • Retaining existing workers, including those able to retire,and
  • Attracting the new generation of workers.

B. The workforce challenges and strategies facing hospitals require leaders who:

  • Have an appetite for leading change,
  • Actively cultivate an engaged workforce,
  • Are willing to be early adopters of innovative workforce practices, and
  • Welcome the new generations to their organizations.

C. To help address the workforce needs of hospitals, the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development should develop an initiative – e.g., template, seminar, or webinar – demonstrating how to integrate workforce strategies in the hospital’s overall strategic, business, and service-line plans.

2. Hospitals need to develop new work models that increase efficiency, workforce satisfaction, and patient outcomes. Proven process improvement strategies developed by firms outside of health care may expedite efforts to improve performance.

3. Hospitals need to help staff develop the skills necessary to work effectively in teams.

4. To provide care with a smaller workforce, hospitals need to increase the involvement of patients and families in the care process, including home- and community-based services.

5. A. Hospitals and their associations need to continuously assess whether changes in payment, scope of practice regulations, and work practices are reinforcing the current occupational patterns or encouraging new caregiver occupations and task allocations.

B. To achieve flexible, efficient work designs, accreditors, regulators, and educational programs must place greater emphasis on outcomes and less emphasis on structural or process requirements.

C. Hospitals need to work with colleges and universities to help educational institutions rapidly transform their traditional degree programs (1) to meet the requirements of new and evolving work models and (2) to provide the critical thinking skills necessary to work with the increasingly sophisticated technology of contemporary medical care.

6. A. In identifying, developing and appointing managers, hospitals need to give increased attention to the person’s understanding of, appreciation for, and effectiveness with the multiple workforce generations.

B. To accommodate the preferences of the multiple workforce generations, hospitals need to replace traditional human resources policies which were applied uniformly to all workers with policies and programs that include flexibility and choices.

7. Hospitals need to work with employees approaching retirement age to identify attractive options regarding roles, schedules, and benefits for continuing to work full- or part-time.

8. Hospitals need to evaluate their organizational cultures and assess their attractiveness to the full diversity of their workforce, including young people entering the workforce.

9. Given the generational differences in dress, cosmetics, body art, and communication patterns, hospitals need to orient young workers to the expectation of patients and staff from the traditional, baby boomer, and Y generations as well as to differences in expectation by gender, race, and ethnicity. This should include more substantial orientation and mentoring programs as well as clear policies and guidelines for access to and use of internet sites, including social networking sites.

10. The American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration should complement its current project on human resource metrics with a new initiative focused on metrics for new work roles and a new workforce.

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