Any healthcare and medical organization have to consider a large number of operational variables to be successful. Perhaps the most important of them is staffing patterns that have to be properly structured if healthcare has to be optimized to the fullest. A crucial challenge that is faced is matching patients’ needs with the specific expertise of available staff. However, this is deemed to be impossible by the medical fraternity. Compromises have to be made and this accounts for most of the pitfalls in the healthcare medical staffing pattern scenario.
This is further compounded by the fact that a prime chunk, approximately 54.2% of the operating expenses is on the staff portion of total establishment expenses. Thus discontent and snags in staffing patterns should be set right at the earliest if operating efficiencies have to be maximized. It also makes sound fiscal sense to explore avenues beyond the traditional to manage to staff in healthcare units.
However, there are no structured and standardized solutions that can be implemented. But an effort has been made in this direction and studies have been conducted on how to best avoid pitfalls in staffing in the healthcare and medical context.
- Installing Workforce Management Technology – Those responsible in the healthcare industry for professional staffing in the USA are opting to install state of the art workforce management technology. While it is still in the testing stages, research has proved that it makes the best use of nurses’ time and matches their core competencies with the needs of patients. But an already thinly stretched and cash-strapped industry needs to invest beyond budgetary allocations to put these systems in place. It not only helps to enhance staff job satisfaction and thereby by default efficiencies, it is also beneficial for patients, more so for those who need specialized care for critical illnesses.
- Making joint efforts to work out best staffing patterns – In almost all healthcare organizations, staffing is driven down from the top – by unit managers or a central staffing body that controls work allocation. This approach has its pitfalls. There is always a gap between the level of care required by a patient and the ability of the allotted staff to deliver. Further, by making managers focus on this activity for a major part of the day, attention is taken away from more crucial issues that they are supposed to handle like mentoring staff and ensuring top end patient care.
The solution to this issue is greater staff participation in the allocation process. Ground level nurses, for example, will know more about patient needs than managers and can help work out an optimized solution. It will also increase their job satisfaction levels resulting in higher quality of output.
- Opening up units that work in isolation – Professional staffing often does not take into account units that work in isolation in watertight compartments. Hence, in case of a staff shortage in one unit, it becomes difficult to rush in replacements from another unit as the staff position across an organization is not known. It gives rise to a situation where a nurse going off duty or not having sufficient work is not reallocated even if there is an acute need of staff in another unit. A lack of knowledge about shortages and excesses across a healthcare organization leads to a skewed staffing pattern.
The solution to this is to have a centralized approach that takes into consideration the total needs instead of a unit by unit approach. This again will increase efficiencies and quality of patient care as managers will know of staff willing to work extra. The upturn is that it lowers cost and rationalizes allocation functions.
- Ensuring standardized staffing policies – An emotive issue with staff is a notion that set policies discriminate between units and act as benchmarks during allocation. This is another pitfall in healthcare medical staffing It might be anything – incentives, holiday schedules or other welfare programs. While this might not be true and simply be a perceived thought amongst staff, lack of transparency across an organization leads to this peculiar dilemma. The allocation must not only be above board, it must also be seen and acknowledged by staff to be above board to prevent discontentment. Standardized staffing patterns create a level playing field, eliminate bias, match staff competencies with patient needs and lead to a cohesive and efficient workforce.
By eliminating these pitfalls, medical and healthcare agencies can definitely enhance their staffing patterns and operational efficiencies.