As technology races forward and the aging population places greater demands on healthcare staff, the need for competent HR professionals will only continue to grow. Current healthcare professionals as well as HR specialists in other industries should consider advancing within health administration in order to bring their experience to a rapidly expanding field and help shape the future of healthcare. Here are two major challenges healthcare HR departments face along with strategies for successfully combating them.
Adapting to New Technologies
Thanks to advances in healthcare technologies, health providers can monitor and analyze health issues remotely. Fitness trackers, mobile apps, telemedicine platforms, and devices such as remote heart monitors and insulin pumps are giving medical professionals real-time insights into a patient’s medical conditions like never before. However, these also place new demands on HR professionals.
One major responsibility that falls on HR departments is the task of ensuring healthcare professionals are trained to use the constantly evolving array of technologies. Training sessions and other learning opportunities can be particularly challenging in part because hospital staff are often made up of several generations of people. This includes baby boomers who may lack the technical skills to pick up new technologies right away and may need special support. Millennials may also have difficulty adopting new technologies because information systems can vary greatly between facilities they’ve previously worked for.
Although some technology vendors will provide training to healthcare professionals, there are limits to what an individual can learn and retain. In most cases, it isn’t possible to know everything about each device, especially if training takes place infrequently. To combat this, HR professionals can create in-house training initiatives that stand as a resource professionals can return to.
One example of this is to create opportunities for microlearning. This is an effective strategy because it provides specific information at the moment healthcare staff need it. Medical professionals can view short videos that break down difficult concepts or processes into more digestible lessons, after which they can immediately put the information to use. This also cuts down on the amount of time doctors and nurses have to spend away from their current tasks and patients for training.
In addition to their impact on training, new technologies lower a facility’s need for some positions. For example, as the adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems continues to rise, the tedious and expensive process of transcribing, charting, and duplicating medical information is significantly minimized. These digital systems also reduce the chance of medical errors due to conflicting or incorrect patient information. In addition to EHRs, radio frequency identification (RFID) systems can wirelessly track patients’ conditions and provide instant access to medical records, which will eliminate some low-tech clerical positions.
Responding to Workforce Shortages
Hiring and retaining qualified staff may be the most impactful thing an HR department can do to improve patient outcomes. We’re facing a shortage of healthcare professionals due to a number of factors. For one, our population is aging, which means a higher percentage of people are developing health conditions that require medical attention. The fact that more people are insured also places additional strain on healthcare facilities.
The number of primary care physicians, in particular, is decreasing because fewer physicians are choosing primary care specialties. However, HR professionals can hire alternative staff such as physician assistants or nurse practitioners to help fill this gap. Nurse practitioners can provide a similar level of care to primary physicians, and they have kept an even pace with the demand for their position. As an added bonus, nurse practitioners can provide their services at a lower cost than physicians.
As with any industry, HR departments looking to combat the shortage of healthcare professionals should take advantage of hiring best practices in order to find the right employees. Hiring qualified professionals is essential for positive patient outcomes as well as reducing employee turnover. In order to attract quality talent, healthcare facilities should design compensation packages that meet the financial and lifestyle needs of new medical professionals. This includes things like insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and something that has become increasingly important — debt relief.
It’s important for HR professionals to work with unit managers when creating job descriptions in order to identify which qualifications are essential to the position and which are simply preferred. They should also avoid setting experience or education requirements higher than necessary in order to draw from a wider pool of worthy applicants. Pre-hiring assessments can reveal qualifications beyond an applicant’s resume, such as their personality and their ability to fit in with the organization’s culture.
The internet has changed the way people find and apply for jobs, and HR professionals should target a variety of channels to advertise an opening. This includes and job boards that cater to healthcare positions as well as social media platforms and university recruitment programs. Employee referrals are also a great resource for discovering qualified applicants who, in many cases, will also stand a good chance of fitting into the culture of the workplace. Internships offer a low-stakes opportunity to work with an employee and test whether they are a good fit.
Finding and hiring the right employees is only one facet to maintaining a successful workforce. Retaining employees should take high priority within healthcare HR. According to one study, employee turnover is the top staffing concern of a third of healthcare recruiters in the United States. And while the exact number isn’t clear, some studies suggest a 28 percent turnover rate in healthcare jobs. Aside from expensive recruiting and training costs, turnover hurts patient satisfaction, places additional burdens on other staff, and lowers productivity and morale between co-workers.
To increase retention rates, HR departments should focus on hiring employees that are a good fit professionally and culturally. Although recruiters might meet their organization’s goals for quickly hiring employees within a set budget, bringing on low-cost employees who aren’t the right fit contributes to high turnover rates. One strategy for accomplishing this is to include peer interviews within the hiring process. This way an applicant can meet their potential co-workers, and the current staff can gauge whether the person would be a cultural fit.
Employee retention isn’t just about making good hiring decisions, but ensuring current employees have the resources they need to do their job well and stay engaged. Regular workshops in which staff and management can share best practices, personal goals, and success stories is a great way to create a dialogue that will help staff to grow professionally and build a sense of community in their mission as a team. Likewise, employees who under-perform should work with management to set clear goals for moving forward. If timely improvement doesn’t seem possible, it may be a good idea to let that employee go in order to ensure they aren’t placing additional strain on their co-workers and the organization.