Tech-backed staffing and the Gig-Economy

The answer to healthcare's nursing shortage.
According to the 2022 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report (NHQDR), the number of healthcare workers employed in hospitals was 2% lower than in January 2020. However, that decline was 12.1% among nursing home workers.
In the words of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, this report indicates that a lot of work needs to be done if patients must receive the care that they need. It so happens that many others share such a notion.
It's a known fact that there is a massive national shortage of healthcare workers in the USA today. The severity of this shortage is mirrored in the fact that, even before the pandemic, there was already a shortage of nurses. Likewise, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has stated that soon, more registered nurse jobs would be available than in any other profession in the country.

Also, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that more than 275,000 additional nurses will be needed to meet the industry’s needs till 2030.

This post examines the causes of this shortage of nurses and healthcare workers, the effect of the staffing crisis, and how the service of futuristic staffing companies and a switch to gig work can save the day.

Let’s get to it.     

Causes of the nursing shortage

1. Nurse Turnover

The nursing shortage crisis worsens by the day, thanks to nurses resigning from their jobs. The nursing profession is naturally demanding and takes a toll on the nurses leaving them exhausted.

Sadly, these practitioners can only deal with a certain level of stress before deciding to call it quits. As they leave the profession, it further increases the workload of the remaining registered nurses, constantly pushing them to mental depletion. 

And the vicious cycle continues.   

2. Faculty Shortage

The lack of sufficient training resources is another major reason for the nurse shortage. Nursing schools are facing a dire lack of classroom space, clinical sites, clinical preceptors, funds, and a massive exodus of nurse educators. These educators are ditching their role in the education sector for better opportunities in the clinical and private sectors.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, this faculty shortage of educators, space, and resources is the reason nursing schools turned away almost 92,000 qualified applications from nursing programs in 2021. If the institution that produces nurses isn’t functioning optimally, and even resorts to rejecting qualified applications, then a lack of nurses to meet industry demands is sure.

3. The ever-growing population of aging adults

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2030, the entire baby boomer generation which accounts for about 73 million individuals will be over 65 years of age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than half of Americans who have clocked that age have about one or two critical health conditions.

These numbers reveal that the aging American population is expanding and equally dealing with debilitating health situations. As a result, there’s increased pressure on the existing nursing workforce to meet the demand.    

4. Many nurses are approaching retirement

Registered nurses won’t remain in active service forever; like their counterparts in other fields, someday, they’ll retire. Data reveals that the average age of registered nurses in America is 51 years. The retirement of these experienced professionals implies further erosion of the workforce. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough younger nurses with the same wealth of experience to take their place.

5. Greater patient influx

For a variety of reasons, medical facilities are dealing with more patients than ever before. One of those reasons is the COVID-19 pandemic. While the world seems to be wiggling free from its grip, the crushing effect of the pandemic on healthcare won’t be forgotten quickly. It exacerbated and fully uncovered the industry’s nursing shortage.

Likewise, the opioid epidemic amplified this issue. More than a million people had to receive urgent and higher-quality medical care along with longer admission periods.    

More Americans today have access to healthcare, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act. Similarly, other programs emphasize primary and urgent healthcare. Though these legislative reforms and ideas are for the greater good, they demand an increase in the workforce and put a lot of pressure on the available staff. 

6. The nursing profession seems to have lost its shine

Many nurses of the earlier generations seemed to have become nurses out of pure love and passion for the profession. That is hardly the case today. The younger generations concern themselves with other elements such as work-life balance and healthy work environments.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, registered nurses are almost certain to deal with insane workloads, working overtime, bad-tempered and extremely demanding patients, poor pay, and generally poor working conditions. Consequently, the profession has lost its luster.

Since it doesn’t seem to be so attractive anymore, people aren’t really clamoring to become registered nurses today.     

The impact of healthcare’s nursing shortage

1. Greater Nurse Burnout

A notable effect of the nursing shortage is that the available nurses and other healthcare professionals crumble under the pressure of excessive workload. With the professional responsibilities outmatching the size of the workforce, staff persons are compelled to take up more work than they can handle and also work overtime on a regular basis.

The outcome is a feeling of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion from working for hours on end. Gradually, these professionals grow to detest the noble calling that they so loved.  

2. Reduced profit margins for healthcare organizations

Healthcare institutions have had a hole burned through their pockets due to the nursing shortage. The industry’s recruiting scene has become overly competitive as various facilities are doing what they have to in order to have sufficient staff. 

Instead of paying nurses and other healthcare professionals their fair wages, these organizations have resorted to higher hourly pay, enhanced benefits packages, sign-on bonuses, and increased overtime pay. While it sounds like good news to individuals on the receiving end, these are significant financial commitments that take a huge bite out of the facilities’ profits.

3. Insufficient staffing for hospitals

Healthcare institutions that lack the wherewithal to cope in the hyper-competitive recruitment scene have only one option, and it’s to make do with what they have. These facilities have to deal with the fact that they don’t have enough hands on deck.

Sometimes, this isn’t peculiar to medical organizations with shallow budgets. Even with decent resources, hospitals can suffer nursing shortages. The entire industry is understaffed, so healthcare facilities have to struggle for the available few.  

4. Poor patient care and higher patient mortality

With nurses being torn in multiple directions at once and the ensuing loss of job satisfaction, patient care has worsened. These professionals are overburdened with responsibilities and are currently ill-prepared to foresee and forestall mishaps. Consequently, they’re prone to making multiple medication administration errors.

As their efficiency drops, patients have to wait longer to receive medical attention. This causes extended stays in the facilities as well as overcrowded emergency rooms. The debilitating patient care often results in a need for patient readmission or, in severe cases, death.

Indeed, the neglect of patients which characterizes understaffed medical facilities increases patients’ death rates.

5. Overburdened nursing schools

America’s nursing schools are feeling the brunt of the nursing shortage because it behooves them to churn out a good number of well-trained nurses as quickly as possible. The fact that this demand is disruptive isn’t even the worst of it all. Many educators in the nursing profession are on the verge of retirement, making it extremely challenging to meet this need.

Being confronted with this unpleasant reality, many of these short-staffed educational institutions and programs have no choice but to turn away prospective students. As mentioned earlier, this shortage of educators is one of the reasons nursing schools turned away many qualified applications from nursing programs recently.

The impact of healthcare’s nursing shortage

If there’s one thing we can deduce from all these, it’s that the healthcare industry’s regular staffing model isn’t yielding the desired results. So, the loop of insufficient staffing for hospitals, nurse burnout, and poor patient care is bound to continue. 

With a fine understanding of the root causes of the industry’s staffing crisis, it goes without saying that the way forward should adequately tend to those concerns. Thankfully, there’s a glimmer of hope. 

The gig economy and tech-supported staffing companies have surfaced as a solution to the burgeoning nursing shortage. Let’s examine how they can alleviate the shortage. 

1. Efficiency in filling shifts

Gig work and staffing companies that leverage technology, such as WorkFit Medical, can help deal with the nursing shortage. They make it much easier for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to get staff for the various shifts. This model eliminates the need for traditional recruiters and expensive travel nurses.

It bridges the chasm between nurses and other healthcare staff looking for work and medical facilities in need of staff to fill shifts. Also, these medical organizations get to hire staff strictly based on their immediate needs while the staff gets to work on agreed terms. 

Staffing companies in the healthcare space have leveraged this opportunity to take care of the vital openings in multiple hospitals and healthcare settings. 

So, instead of the healthcare institutions scrambling for the sparse talent and keeping the employed nurses to themselves under the guise of full-time roles, the two parties to the equation can connect via a platform. The professionals available can then work at whichever organization is in need of nurses.

2. Flexibility and control in terms of scheduling

The nurse staffing crisis is driven by burnout which comes from long shifts, mandatory double shifts, and excessive workload. The gig economy deals with this issue by offering nurses the option to choose the timing, duration, location, and volume of shifts they take. This flexibility and increased autonomy make work-life balance a reality for nurses.

It eliminates the compulsion to work overtime and gives nurses much richer and more fulfilling work lives than regular full-time roles can offer. This being the case, it improves the chances of nurses joining and staying in active service for longer and even gives hope that those who made a hasty exit due to exhaustion might return.  

The gig economy along with innovative staffing companies is the answer to the puzzle posed by the nursing shortage. At Roosted, scheduling and shift-filling are our mission. Thanks to our bots, we’ll help your hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities find qualified nurses to sign up for shifts.