Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining sufficient staffing levels to produce high-quality and consistent patient care was something that left many healthcare systems concerned about their bottom line. With the ever-rising shortage of providers and nursing salaries that continue to rise, it may feel virtually impossible to cut staffing costs while continuing to maintain satisfactory levels of patient care.
While the challenges facing those charged with staffing healthcare systems are great, there are ways to reduce staffing costs without compromising patient care. Several methods that can help healthcare systems continue to provide care to patients while reducing staffing costs include:
- Reducing Turnover Rate
- Reducing Overtime Work
- Use Vendor Management Systems
Reduce Employee Turnover
Not only does turnover impact patient care, but it also has a direct impact on the bottom line of a healthcare system. In 2021, NSI Nursing Solutions Inc. surveyed more than 3,000 hospitals regarding staffing and RN retention rates. According to the findings published in an annual report, hospitals experienced an 18.7% turnover rate for registered nurses, which is an increase of 2.8% over the previous year.
As the NSI Nursing Solutions Inc. report notes, “the cost of turnover can have a profound impact on diminishing hospital margins and needs to be managed.” Onboarding new employees not only is costly but also requires time that could better be utilized for patient care or other tasks. Therefore, retaining competent staff becomes an important strategy to reducing overall staffing costs. To boost employee retention it’s important for healthcare systems to begin with a comprehensive and thorough hiring process. This process needs to:
- Identify the specific qualities desired of the candidates
- Develop an effective recruitment plan
- Use interview best practices to help identify candidates who meet desired qualities
Once employees have been hired, it’s important to keep them. In healthcare, one of the biggest challenges for employee retention is combatting employee burnout. This is a challenge that has only increased with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses often cite issues like lack of life/work balance, poor organizational culture, and increased demand for administrative tasks as reasons for fatigue and burnout.
To effectively maintain staff and reduce turnover rate, it’s important to implement strategies designed to help your employees cope with work-related stressors. Keeping communication between management and staff open regarding workplace challenges, problems, changes, or opportunities is crucial in staff retention. Other strategies could include things such as more flexible scheduling, career development support, and a workplace that focuses on continuing education for staff.
Reduce Overtime Work
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) set forth by the U.S. Department of Labor, “…unless exempt, employees covered by the Act must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than time and one-half their regular rates of pay.” HealthAffrais, a peer-reviewed journal, published an article that reviewed logbooks from nearly 400 hospitals. Out of 5,317 logged work shifts, 40% went over 12 hours.
Not only does overtime work cost more in wages, but it also significantly increases employee burnout rate and the likelihood that mistakes are made during care. Monitoring employee time and overtime closely can be an effective way to identify opportunities for scheduling more efficiently.
Institutions looking to reduce overtime can do so by using digital timesheets to track staff time, putting a cap on hours worked and using overtime rotations. Some software will provide management with an automatic notice when an employee has exceeded their hours, helping to identify issues immediately. If changes are made to the overtime policy, it is imperative to communicate all changes to staff. Lastly, an overtime rotation can be a way to help all employees take advantage of extra pay without burnout from constantly having to work additional hours.
Use Vendor Management Systems
Unfortunately, the trend of provider shortages is expected to increase for the foreseeable future. With shortages, it can be difficult to independently maintain adequate staffing levels. Turning to vendor management systems can be an incredibly cost-effective way to keep positions filled and ensure proper patient care.
In healthcare systems, particularly given the current level of provider shortages, temporary employees are often required. At VMS Solution, we offer a number of advantages for our clients. With a vendor-neutral vendor management system, temporary healthcare staffing becomes an easier and more efficient process. VMS Solution simplifies healthcare staffing for multiple healthcare systems and ensures patients receive high-quality, consistent care by streamlining the workflow and workforce.
Maintaining the standard of patient care and saving money on staffing is not an easy task, but one that is manageable with the right resources. Through technology, such as digital timesheet software, vendor management systems, and a focus on employee retention, it is possible to give patients the care they deserve without negatively affecting your bottom line.