Staffing challenges are now the number one impediment to delivering timely evidenced based medical care for our patients
TAMPA, Fla. (PRWEB) January 11, 2023
Since experiencing deep losses early on in the pandemic, the healthcare sector has faced a jobs crisis. Insufficient and unreliable hospital staffing has a direct impact on patient care, as it reduces available inpatient beds, causes overcrowding in emergency rooms, and delays urgent and elective surgeries. Outpatient healthcare staffing issues prevent patients from seeing their primary care physicians and specialists, and hinders the timely treatment of acute and chronic health conditions. "Staffing challenges are now the number one impediment to delivering timely evidenced based medical care for our patients," says Ben Williams, MD FACEP, Chief Medical Officer at TrueCare24 and Emergency Medicine Physician.
Healthcare workers have just witnessed and survived a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, which killed upward of one million people, and many are still recovering from the repercussions on their mental health. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 50% of healthcare workers report symptoms of burnout. Unfortunately for patients, these staffing challenges and low morale in healthcare creates substantial delays in patient care, and reduces the quality of that care.
The industry slowly began recovering in 2021, with an average of 9,000 new healthcare jobs added per month. Unfortunately, these relatively modest staffing gains are not sufficient as hospital and emergency department volumes across the country have risen almost 10% from pre-pandemic volumes. As of December 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 80% of hospital beds across the country are full. Patients who delayed medical care—or were prevented from accessing it—are now presenting more severe complications and lower overall states of health, leading to longer hospital stays and poorer outcomes.
Healthcare employment only reached pre-pandemic levels earlier this year, and many hospitals still face staffing shortages as the COVID-19 pandemic continues—now joined by virulent influenza, an outbreak of RSV, and the new XBB.1.5 subvariant.
What predictions do these trends spell out for healthcare staffing in 2023?
1. In the coming year, the demand for jobs in healthcare will continue to rise.
In 2022, the number of new healthcare positions skyrocketed to an average of 47,000 new jobs per month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—signaling that providers and healthcare companies are recognizing the need for robust staffing to handle growing patient needs. That means that hospitals, healthcare companies, and providers will be actively recruiting staff in the coming year, often through medical staffing agencies and traveling nurse agencies.
This trend is poised to continue into 2023 as demand for healthcare services grows due to pandemic-delayed care and rising COVID-19 hospitalizations, and productivity among burned-out physicians and staff declines.
Though employers are adding jobs at unprecedented rates, they face a distinct shortage of potential workers. Grim working conditions and unreasonably heavy workloads are a deterrent to an aging workforce of nurses, medical assistants, and physicians.
2. Pandemic-delayed healthcare will hit understaffed providers hardest.
Delays in primary care during the pandemic—especially routine and preventative procedures—have already led to exacerbated health problems for many Americans.
Conditions that could have been diagnosed and treated with a primary care visit will now manifest later, often with far more serious symptoms and consequences.
This burden isn’t about to change in 2023. Some Americans are still forgoing primary care completely, with 11% no longer seeking care at all or only for COVID-19 related concerns. Complications from poorly-managed chronic conditions will place an even greater strain on the healthcare system in the coming year as patients finally seek treatment.
Providers will need to ramp up hiring even more in 2023 to handle this influx of higher acuity patients on top of current patient volumes—and to lessen the strain on existing staff and healthcare workers.
3. The healthcare burden of COVID-19 will continue to strain staff and providers.
The clinical burden of pandemic-delayed care will likely remain constant, if not continue to grow, as COVID-19 moves through unvaccinated and under-boosted populations—leading to even more hospitalizations. Only 31% of people over 65 have obtained the most recent booster, as reported by the CDC, compared to 94% when the booster first became available. As people grow vaccine fatigued, severe flu cases will also worsen—only 26% of adults had their flu shot by October 2022, and 13.29 million fewer doses were distributed this year as opposed to December 2021.
Going into 2023, COVID hospitalizations will continue to trend upwards as an uptick in cases during the holiday season trickles into the winter months—spelling even greater stress on an already-strained healthcare system, and a greater need for condition-specific counseling services.
4. Tackling physician burnout with better staffing practices.
Healthcare staff are struggling after three years of COVID-19. High turnover, stagnant wages, and anemic hiring have left existing workers struggling to handle COVID-19 hospitalizations alongside the new influx of patients with severe health conditions. Wait times are long and patients are struggling more than ever, creating a perfect storm of strain and burnout in the healthcare system.
As hospitals merge into even bigger institutions, and small healthcare companies are absorbed into larger ones, physicians also face more and more paperwork on top of typical patient duties. Physicians reported spending 15.48 hours per week on administration and paperwork in 2022 (Annual Physician Salary Report 2022). As demand for treatment continues to trend upward, administrative workloads increase, and the ongoing pandemic strains the mental health of staff, many hospital workers and healthcare professionals are tired and burned out.
But new surges in hiring promise to partially tackle the problem of staff exhaustion. Turnover is decreasing in the home healthcare sector (Home Healthcare News, November 7 2022), overall wages are increasing, and a focus on better staffing in 2023 promises to help conquer some of the deeper problems plaguing the industry.
5. Wages for physicians are steadily increasing.
Healthcare salaries in the United States have mostly stayed stagnant since 2019. After falling in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, compensation began creeping upward again last year. Though some specialty physicians saw increases of up to 13% in 2021, physicians assistants got an average 2% increase in wages, and critical care doctors only 1%, according to the Annual Physician Salary Report.
Compensation in the healthcare industry jumped more sharply in 2022. The average hourly rate for CNAs in the US went up 9.09%, according to the 2022-2023 Hospice Salary & Benefits Report. That trend is likely to continue as healthcare institutions ramp up hiring and actively recruit nurses and healthcare staff. Hospitals and health companies will likely offer even better wages and better benefits to fill open job positions; new recruits tend to have higher starting salaries than current employees do.
6. Healthcare programs aimed at specific demographics will continue to grow, requiring diverse and targeted staffing.
Targeted staff recruitment will be more important than ever as healthcare companies begin offering services for specific demographics and finding success in those offerings. These demographic-based healthcare services provide patients more directed counseling for health conditions, as well as better personalized care in a safe and accepting environment—often by physicians of the same demographic.
Not only will healthcare organizations need to expand their recruitment efforts to a wider range of candidates to continue offering these services, but diversity and inclusion will become staples in order to better serve the specific needs of their customer bases.
TrueCare24 is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform enabling better healthcare services for individuals, organizations and providers. With focuses in mental health services, healthcare staffing, prevention, screening, compliance, safety and home health care, TrueCare24 strives to provide personalized health care solutions through technology with an emphasis on preventative care. Learn more at truecare24.com