10 Healthcare staffing challenges and how to overcome staffing challenges

Healthcare staffing is no place to have peace of mind. Patients rushing in from time to time and healthcare professional running across to serve them, hospitals and clinics have become increasingly impatient. This has lead to many healthcare staffing challenges and management side of things

 How was the healthcare staffing challenges in the past?

30 or 40 years rolling back in time, healthcare staffing was a simple yet self-satisfied industry where the demands were met easily. Then when the medical and healthcare industries developed and healthcare insurance came into existence many people started utilising healthcare services than before and hence an expansion happened and the demand for healthcare staffs could not be met. To fill the gaps temporary staffs were usually employed from the staff hiring agencies.

Soon the situation complexed and healthcare staffing had introduced two other major division apart from physicians and nurses. They are the allied healthcare staff and locum tenens (travel nurses). To fulfil the diversified needs of the healthcare institutions, hiring agencies developed into staffing firms which work in relationship with the hospital to take care of the staffing needs, recruitment and retaining of the healthcare staffs.

 Healthcare staffing challenges Now

Till date, healthcare staffing has not grown efficient to suffice the demands. The high demands have even gone higher and the staffs benefit the most from this. On average 8% of the Registered Nurse requirements are not fulfilled nationwide. Organisations have to raise the pay and add welfare programs to retain the healthcare staffs, particularly nursing is seeing a great boom for the past decade. Due to the unfilled requirements, many professionals are opting to work on short-time contracts to make the most out of the situation.

The approach and work preferences have changed vastly from the past. Back then, nurses tend to go with the job that pays them most irrespective of the shift, work nature and other work parameters. Now the nurses have plenty of well-paying options to choose from at their hands reach and they tend to choose the one that best suits the lifestyle and has the comfortable work environment.

Affordable Care Act that mandates healthcare insurance which was implemented back in 2014 is expected to bring 32 million new Americans insured and avail the healthcare services by 2019. Due to this, the average lifetime of Americans will rise who in turn will depend wholly on the healthcare services which also turns back to burdens he hospitals.

To manage all the rising needs and outnumbered patients, hospitals pay a subscription to Vendor Management system (VMS). VMS is basically a combination of certain staffing firms in collaboration working for a hospital. When a short-term staff is required, the VMS forwards it to the staffing mediators from where it reaches the potential employers. This is definitely not the efficient process considering the multiple levels the information has to pass through just to know about the openings.

Challenges in healthcare staffing

Healthcare staffing industry is expanding in accelerated speeds, staffing needs could not match the growth of it widening the gap between demand and supply of healthcare staffs. In general healthcare staffing industry only adopt proven management techniques and fail to adopt the new technological improvements, unlike other sectors which adds to the existing pile of difficulties. Below or the 10 common challenges faced in healthcare staffing and our vision to overcome them.

Fee-for-service approach

For a long while, US healthcare industry was working under the fee-for-service scheme. This provides incentives to the professionals when they intend the customers to get more services from the same organization like examinations, scheduling visits. Honestly, that was not ideal or at times not necessary but some tend to follow them to earn more out of the patients. The push to take more services requires more staff which actually is in shortage right now.

This can be easily eliminated with value-based care system which has already come to practice at some places. This is almost the opposite of fee-for-service approach. The key aspect of value-based care is the bringing down of employee needs by eliminating the visits for minor needs. Instead, the patient or the family members themselves are trained to address the needs.

Retaining Skilled Healthcare professionals

If recruiting the best suiting professionals is rated difficult, then retaining them is one hell of a task. As we know the increasing demand keeps throwing opportunity to the professionals offering something better than other. About 40% of healthcare staff change hospitals in less than 2 years.

To retain the staff with the organization, management needs to have more attention to the needs of particular staff and attend to them as quickly as possible. Also, the hospitals sharing the profit percentage and giving incentives accordingly will be a good strategy to make them stay longer.

Difficulties in filling up your open job

However efficiently we retain professionals at the job, vacancies tend to appear most often than not. To fill them with the best matching staff takes time and so temporary staffs are employed for the time being.

To overcome this either the temporary staff suiting best for the open job can be hired directly or the hospital has to seek help from a hiring firm to get the list of willing employees. Some firms even handle the recruitment part on behalf of the hospital, thereby saving time too.

Fluctuating workload

The medical industry is not constant throughout the clock. The count of patients varies from time to time. At times there is an overwhelming count of staff sometimes outnumbered. This stands a major drawback for the hospitals also increasing the cost spent on the healthcare staffing.

The easiest way out is maintaining the generic and basic staff necessities with the hospital and recruiting short time staffs during the prime time. But this too does not improve the price spent on staffing. Some regions have started to adopt forecasters who estimate the upcoming healthcare needs in the near future helping the hospitals to stay prepared beforehand.

High labour costs

When supply does not meet the demands the obvious outcome is the rise in labour costs. Labours are not to be blamed. Neither can’t be reduced by any means.

The possible way to effective labour cost management is cutting of the temporary employee needs by proper pre-planning. The huge price the hospital pays to healthcare staffing firms can also help in cost cutting if the recruitment market is open to all.

Healthcare Market fragmentation

The existence of staffing firms has divided the market which hurdles the hospitals and clinics to have the options to recruit. The employees too are affected by this system when they do not get to know about the open job which is suitable for them but does not reach them when they have not registered with a particular staffing firm that the hospital is in partnership with.

Making the market open to all employers and employees is the only way to get rid of this age-old issue. When the market is open every employee gets to know about every opening. Here the middleman has no purpose of existence, but this won’t kick in until an effective platform is built for the open market system.

Expansion of healthcare facilities

The hospital in its normalcy faces many staffing issues, consider expanding their facilities, this needs a lot more input in a quick span of time.

This is the apt scenario to bring in the staffing company which can largely help you to meet your needs if not long-term staffs at least with short-term temporary healthcare staffing.

Failure to adopt new healthcare staffing technology

One key reason for the slower growth of staffing when compared to the healthcare industry is the slow adoption of technology. For instance, open market over the internet is existent in almost all professions but not that efficient in healthcare staffing.

Usage in telecommunication particularly mobile can leverage healthcare management. The clock in and out timing, recording patients vitals, history through mobiles will come in very handy during shift handovers.


When a sudden short come of employees occurs some outdated managements insist the healthcare staff about to clock out to take overtime duties offering high incentives. This favours the patients but not the hospitals. During overtime, the employees need to be paid more to make them stay.

Whereas bringing short-term employees will suffice the needs will within the budget constraints for which staffing firm’s assistance can be sought.

Forecasting medical staff requirements

This is of no major importance as of now since most hospitals rely on medical staffing companies for the staff management. With the advent of the open market the staffing firms will reduce drastically and may be the forecasting consultants will gain importance.

Their duty is to forecast the healthcare needs based on statistics for getting ready with the resources. We have hopes this will make the healthcare staffing more transparent and efficient.


The above common healthcare staffing challenges faced in healthcare staffing should have been useful. The short solutions were expert opinions from research by experts in the field. For more such tips and information on healthcare staffing check out our blogs.