Many physicians and healthcare facilities are starting to realize that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, planning for the future has never been harder. Decreased revenue, growing coronavirus infection numbers and reduced patient census have crippled the Medicare industry and left little for optimism. This is why it has become more prominent than ever for physicians to have a staffing plan that “anticipates and accommodates uncertainty and can help your facility manage costs, maintain clinician job satisfaction, and produce better patient outcomes even in an unpredictable environment” (Becker’s Hospital Review). Below are four strategies to consider when creating your healthcare facility’s 2021 staffing plan.
1. Identify needs and challenges
The first and most important step a physician must take in order to help their facility plan for their staffing needs, is to engage in conversation with department heads to understand their experience and the trends they are seeing in their area of responsibility. Questions that would be beneficial for the physician to ask department heads can range from, are they understaffed/overstaffed? What is the demand their particular department is anticipating, is it more or less than usual? Are their physicians feeling stressed or struggling with fatigue? Lastly, one of the most important questions to ask, is to identify which specialties are most difficult to staff. The information gathered from these questions will be paramount to how you adjust to any staffing needs, and whether your 2021 fiscal year will be successful or not.
2. Research your market
After evaluating your team’s needs, it is beneficial to research the market, so you can better understand how to accomplish your goals. Many websites, such as Becker’s Hospital Review suggest working with a staffing partner, which allows you to understand what’s happening in the broader market right now and provide advice/suggestions on how it may change in the future.
Staffing companies are designed to help you determine which specialties are flourishing in the market today. “Combining this insight with trends in late-career physicians and the resident/fellow outlook by specialty will enable you to better understand the physician employment landscape for the next year” (Becker’s Hospital Review).
Staffing partners can also help you evaluate your competitors, and if your benefits package offers an advantage or disadvantage in the hiring-process compared to other facilities. If you find that your competitors offer better benefits, consult with your in-house resources to come up with a solution to make your job offerings more appealing.
3. Alternative solutions to facility problems
The effects of the pandemic will impact your facility in some areas more than others. Some facilities will be understaffed, some facilities will have equipment shortages, others will have revenue problems. Being understaffed due to a lack of revenue is the worst problem a health facility can have. Being understaffed can cause your team to become fatigued, and can worst of all lead to patients being left untreated. Solutions to your revenue problem can vary! Facilities can try and be price transparent with their patients. Understand that the global pandemic has affected everyone negatively financially, and come up with payment plans, in order to help patients afford their care. If facilities are spending too much money on replenishing equipment shortages, and can no longer afford having a full staff, consider asking for donations from the local government or community. Thinking on your feet can not only save lives, but your business as well.
4. Expect the unexpected
There is a quote from legendary Irish poet Oscar Wilde that perfectly illustrates how physicians should approach their staffing plans for 2021, “to expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect”. 2020 was an unexpected year for everyone, and the effects of being unprepared for a global pandemic proved deadly. No one will know how 2021 will fare, most of all the Medicare field, but being well staffed and having your team prepared for the worst can help prevent travesty. As Michael Kay, a financial contributor for Forbes once said, “transition planning is like eating the proverbial elephant, something to do one bite at a time and not in one impossible swallow. Begin with an examination of potential threats and then build a team to help you move forward”.