Healthcare workers across the U.S. many who thought the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was behind them have been hit with a blast of harsh reality.
Hospitals in California, Texas, Florida and elsewhere are reporting shortages in equipment, drugs, beds and staff as the pandemic has spiked in some areas. Concerns abound that more waves could land in the fall, right as the annual flu season starts.
Healthcare workers on the front line, despite being more cautious and better equipped than the average citizen, are at high risk for contracting the virus. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), healthcare professionals account for 106,180 cases and 552 deaths. And those numbers don’t paint the full picture because, of the data collected, healthcare personnel status was only available for 21.6% of the subjects.
The CDC warns that healthcare organizations must be prepared for staffing shortages due to exposure to COVID-19, actual illness or to care for loved ones who become ill with the virus.
In healthcare, where staffing shortages already make shift management and adequate staff-to-patient ratios a challenge, more surges are bound to leave hospitals reeling.
To help healthcare organizations, the CDC has released Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages on its website. We highly recommend you read the full article, but here are some highlights.
Understand how many employees you must have
Know the minimum number of staff you need to provide high-quality care and a safe work environment. That is the benchmark for establishing your schedule for all doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff, including custodians and administrators.
With that as your baseline, you can then set up contingency plans in the event of a surge in your facility, for example, by:
- Hiring additional healthcare professionals
- Recruiting retirees, students or volunteers to be on call
- Canceling elective procedures and visits and shifting personnel from those floors to support patient care in the ER or ICU
The goal here is to not wait until you are up against a shortage, but instead, prepare for a worst-case scenario. That starts by understanding your most basic staffing needs and having steps in place before a shortage occurs.
How do busy healthcare leaders track it all?
A previous post examinedhow the pandemic is complicating credential tracking, as states waive requirements and help comes from retirees, students, volunteers, ex-healthcare staff whose licenses have expired and out-of-state professionals.
COVID-19 is creating the same challenges for staffing.
Think about it: What if three ICU nurses called off sick one hour before a shift? What if several hospital custodians went on strike because they weren’t receiving adequate PPE? What if the on-call ER physician is a no-show? Or half of your ER registrars had to quarantine?
Do the managers who oversee those employees have the information they need to find replacements quickly and efficiently?
For many organizations, that is a No. Healthcare leaders and managers don’t have the broad visibility or context to make quick staffing decisions on a normal day much less during a crisis. They can spend hours poring over spreadsheets and making calls to find replacements.
Add in an influx of on-call volunteers or new hires and the complexity grows. And if your organization has no other choice but to allow employees with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to work, scheduling that person so that they can treat patients that meet the CDC’s criteria is a logistical nightmare. That’s a detail that you would need to consider and track as you create the schedule and fill open shifts.
ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler enables you to act fast
With the deep visibility and intelligence you gain from ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, you can better meet the needs of your patients and staff now and long after you’ve recovered from the pandemic:
- Gain instant access to schedule data across your organization from any device
- Manage staff-to-patient ratios with a quick-look staffing grid through predictive analytics
- Communicate schedule changes and shift needs to staff without picking up a phone
- Avoid overstaffing and overtime by gaining an eagle-eye view of the hours each employee has worked with a highly intuitive dashboard
- Pinpoint costly inefficiencies, such as scheduling over budget and paying for hours not met, with permissions-based control and visibility
Plus, check out the rest of ABILITY’s suite of mobile applications that take the work out of workforce management:
- Allow staff to clock in from their phones, approve timecards and track staff punches with ABILITY SMARTFORCE Attendance
- Collect, organize and track licenses and certifications with ABILITY SMARTFORCE Credentialer
- Manage physician and clinical schedules, view open shifts and track commitments with ABILITY SMARTFORCE Physician
All our applications are affordable and easy to deploy and use. Upgrade how you manage your workforce by contacting our sales team at 888-552-4049.
ABILITY and design®, ABILITY®, ABILITY SMARTFORCE® and Credentialer® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.