The Dwindling Healthcare Workforce - Where Do We Go From Here

The Dwindling Healthcare Workforce: Where Do We Go From Here?


“Ask any nursing leader about their greatest challenge and they’ll likely point to staffing. If hospitals weren’t already feeling the effects of a severe nursing shortage, a nationwide rise in hospitalizations fueled by the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant has made the effects of it unmistakable.” —Erica Carbajal and Gabrielle Masson, Becker’s Hospital Review.

Early resignations, burnout, illness; the healthcare workforce is in the midst of a massive upheaval. While the staffing shortage is nothing new for the healthcare industry, COVID-19 has accelerated the timeline, forcing many hospitals to get creative and bold when sourcing new talent. Leading hospitals are choosing to engage with contemporary leaders to evaluate, recruit, replace and educate their workforce while simultaneously investing in digital modalities.

According to the American Nursing Association, the nursing shortage is expected to increase to more than half a million vacancies by 2026, with more than 500,000 experienced RNs anticipated to retire by 2022. COVID-19 continues to exacerbate this complex issue. As a result, healthcare organizations face layoffs in some areas of the country, severe shortages in others, and the elevation of several healthcare roles in other locations to meet care demands. 


The Rise of Telemedicine & In-Home Patient Care


There is no doubt that the pandemic has intensified the need for more creative models of patient care. As technology advances, telemedicine, telehealth and in-home care models are sure to become more common. Many hospitals across the country have already begun improving on this model and investing far more resources into telemedicine and in-home patient care delivery.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), there was a “154% increase in telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.” Telehealth policy changes are expected to continue to support increased care access well after the pandemic.


The Acceleration of Digital Transformation Initiatives


In the outpatient setting, there has been a necessity to pivot to virtual healthcare appointments with primary care physicians. Many healthcare systems are embracing telemedicine and leaning on leadership for direction.

Nurse leaders and other stakeholders are challenged to consider:

  • What has changed with the bigger purpose and mission of the organization? 
  • What does the overall population need for us to deliver optimum care during this time? 
  • How can we treat more patients in their homes? 
  • Do we need to invest additional resources in technology to achieve these efforts? 
  • Can we effectively provide wellness kits and care instructions over video or phone?
  • Can asynchronous communication tools be integrated into our digital initiatives?

Advancing care at home undoubtedly requires additional investment in sophisticated technology, but the benefits are becoming more evident as additional hospitals adapt operations. For example, Brigham and Women’s Hospital is developing drone delivery methods while other hospitals upgrade their technology to offer real-time virtual visits to patients in their homes.


The Rise of Ongoing Care for Patients at Home


Treating more patients in the home is not only a safer option, but can save hospitals money too. The response to home healthcare delivery, a strategic reply beyond acute care, has varied by providers. For those who delved deeper into providing telemedicine services, integrated communication and linked systems continue to be crucial to its success. 

Patient at-home care has evolved into a sophisticated multidisciplinary approach supplemented by facilities that can monitor metrics at home. An investment of more robust telemetry systems in the home has also been prioritized to serve patients better and provide necessary interventions. From the basics like weight, temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen level — more patients are being treated safely at home than ever before. In addition, respiratory therapists and nurses are being deployed directly to patient homes for personalized continuity of care and follow-up.

A recent pilot study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that the at-home hospital model can improve care while reducing costs by 40%. In addition, participants receiving at-home care had a 70% lower rate of readmission to the hospital.

“Home hospital models are all about getting the right care to the right patient at the right time and are designed to provide care to patients in the middle of the acuity spectrum. Hospitals can cherry-pick those patients who need medical floor care but who do not require intensive care unit services,” said David Levine, MD, a general internist and investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in an article published to Becker’s Hospital Review.


Carving Out a Path Forward


It has never been more important for healthcare executives to be more closely aligned across clinical and non-clinical domains to overcome staffing and operational challenges. Because Kirby Bates Associates (KBA) is led and operated exclusively by experienced healthcare and nurse executives, more and more leading healthcare organizations are partnering with us to fill clinical and administrative roles.


KBA executives can help your healthcare organization:

  • Redeploy: new roles for exiting leaders
  • Fortify culture: build an inclusive, transparent environment
  • Redesign care delivery: evaluate current methods and implement improvements
  • Develop trust: guide leadership and new leaders in how to foster an environment of trust among the workforce

We’ve spent our entire careers in healthcare, so we know what it takes to lead organizations forward. View our comprehensive portfolio of proven leadership services, including Executive Search, Interim Leadership, and Executive Advisory Services

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