The Great Resignation, Part II: How Innovative Staffing Solutions Can Facilitate Flexibility to Help Solve Health Worker Shortages

By Marion Karl, MS

March 11, 2022

Since the pandemic started, health systems have been overwhelmed and healthcare staff overworked, resulting in significant burnout among employees. This has motivated a huge percentage of the workforce to resign or pivot their vocational interests, a movement dubbed the “Great Resignation.”

In healthcare, the sector to endure the most severe drop in employment is the nursing workforce. Compared to pre-pandemic stats, the pool of licensed practical or vocation nurses decreased 20% to 24% in residential facilities.1 Many older nurses elected to retire while younger nurses were financially incentivized to become traveling nurses or change jobs, tightening the overall healthcare labor force.1

With a high demand for qualified health workers, it is indeed an employee’s market, and workers who find themselves unsatisfied with their current roles are empowered to move on. What can healthcare organizations do to keep their employees from succumbing to the Great Resignation?

Who is quitting and what does it mean for the future of healthcare staffing?

Nurses who quit during the pandemic were often older (over age 50), non-white, worked in nursing homes, or were otherwise specialized. For the latter, lack of demand for specialty health services limited staffing demands. So, while some nurses were left overwhelmed from staffing shortages, others were underutilized—both scenarios creating drain on employee satisfaction.

Taking measures to redeploy health staff and reduce burnout during a worldwide health crisis is really only addressing one aspect of the Great Resignation. For health organizations to retain high-level healthcare staff in a post-pandemic future, it’s valuable to understand all factors that contribute to worker dissatisfaction.

Staff management software is the ultimate tool for attracting and retaining a quality workforce. Discover how StaffReady's suite of solutions can help you today: 

For many healthcare workers, flexibility is a key quality for job satisfaction. Flexibility is the ability of healthcare staff to access the skills and services they need, which can be attained by shifting to competency-based models, tearing down departmental siloes, and offering cross-training and step-training programs for staff.

What factors limit workforce flexibility in health care?

In healthcare, flexibility first requires breaking down boundaries imposed by traditional professional and regulatory therapeutic partitions, which work to curb healthcare workers’ access to specific skills, services, and technologies.2 In fact, current standards keep healthcare staff siloed within their field of medicine and bound by professionally-defined roles, making for a very inflexible workforce.

Overcoming these boundaries not only allows for much-needed workforce flexibility but can help resolve inefficiencies in healthcare delivery.2 Traditional therapeutic partitions render a need for additional, unnecessary clinical transactions involving many provider handovers in order to achieve a single therapeutic goal.2 Not only is this inefficient, but it also exposes vulnerability in the provision of care as well as pain points for clinical staff.2

Staff management technologies can facilitate flexibility by providing skills assessment and training platforms that can elevate your healthcare staff to tackle more tasks, more effectively, and more efficiently. This approach leverages a company’s existing workforce resources (like nurses, clinicians, and technicians) and focuses on how to optimize their competencies—streamlined across departments—for a more productive workflow. 2

What strategies can help enhance workforce flexibility?

New models of care need to be developed that support workforce flexibility in the health care industry. This is important to prepare for and prevent future worker shortages.

Shorter, Flexible Training Times

Long training times are associated with increased costs to the organization and reduced workforce responsiveness.3 Innovative clinical training models can provide a flexibility by shifting toward step-training for incremental achievement of competencies rather than a long-time commitment.2 This translates into staff that can be reliably responsive within the context of their immediate skill set.

Regulate and Assign Tasks Based on Competency

When you are able to untangle specific competencies from defined professional roles or therapeutic siloes, you can better retain a responsive, flexible workforce. Integrated technology solutions like the StaffReady Competency program can assess employee skills and identify appropriate tasks as they align with a worker’s “portfolio of competencies.”2 And when you adopt a skills-based approach to designating tasks, you optimize the care delivery capabilities of your entire workforce.

Tie compensation to skill level not title

Matching the reward to reflect the skill level and risk associated with performing a particular task ultimately supports higher quality work, especially among workers who are underutilized.2 Compensation based on competencies as opposed to professional titles will appeal to a highly-motivated staff while demonstrating a commitment to flexibility.

Technology can help recognize a worker’s unique set of skills and identify and recommend opportunities to enroll in additional training and acquire new competencies. Lower risk, less-skilled tasks can be fulfilled by lower cost workers and thereby help you extend your current staff roles.2

Staff management software is the ultimate tool for attracting and retaining a quality workforce. Discover how StaffReady's suite of solutions can help you today: 

Enable staff to work at their full scope of skills

Specialization in the healthcare has aligned a percentage of the workforce with a more exclusive set of skills, for which there is lower demand in generalist practices. 2 New flexible models of care should ensure that individual practitioners have all the skills they need to match the tasks required in the context of their work but also to look ahead at the full scope of tasks required across disciplines.

Technology that focuses on staffing training solutions may importantly identify missing competencies or highlight the cross-practice potential of specialized competencies. Aligning these findings with the right training support can help round out a robust workforce with the ability to delegate tasks appropriately and efficiently.

The importance of technology in establishing a flexible workforce

To support these strategies, it will be invaluable for healthcare systems to partner with experienced vendors who can help leverage scalable technology for managing staff and streamlining new flexible models of care and compensation.

Integrated technological solutions allow healthcare organizations to easily assess the competency of their staff, to ensure that employees are properly trained, and that assigned tasks are aligned with their skill set rather than bound by therapeutic partitions.

If your organization is ready to take the next steps in ensuring staff satisfaction, StaffReady solutions offer strategic support to achieving workforce flexibility.

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1 Robbins R. Nurse workforce decline during COVID “unprecedented”: study. Medscape Medical News. Published online January 21, 2022. Accessed February 2, 2022.

2 Nancarrow SA. Six principles to enhance health workforce flexibility. Human Resources for Health. Published online April 7, 2015. Accessed February 2, 2022.

3 Emanual EJ, Fucks VR. Shortening Medical Training by 30%. JAMA. Published online March 21, 2021. Accessed February 27, 2022.

Marion Karl, MS

Marion Karl is a medical illustrator, writer, and content designer for the biomedical and health industries. Marion and her husband own a boutique animation studio, Lure Animations, specializing in the production of medical content. Marion received an MS in Biomedical Visualization from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She completed her undergraduate education at Cornell University.

Marion was recently published as a contributor and associated editor on the Wiley project A Guide to the Scientific Career: Virtues, Communications, Research, and Academic Writing.