healthcare staffing shortages

What’s Causing the Healthcare Staffing Shortages? How to Combat the Issue

What’s causing the healthcare staffing shortages? This article explains the issue and what you can do to support your teams.

The workforce across the board from all industries has seen a consistent decline in workforce participation despite the remarkable 3.8 million jobs added in 2021 alone–a total of 3.25 million fewer Americans are working today compared to February of 2020.[1]

In healthcare alone, from 2019 to 2020, job vacancies for various types of nursing personnel increased by up to 30%, and for respiratory therapists by 31%. Healthcare staffing shortages are expected to persist, with an analysis of EMSI data showing there will be a shortage of up to 3.2 million healthcare workers by 2026.[2]

Shortages Caused by COVID and Other Factors

Back in 2020, it was proven that healthcare workers were seven times more likely to have severe COVID-19 compared to other workers.[3] Now in 2022, millions of Americans are struggling with long-term effects of contracting COVID-19, with many of them unable to work due to chronic health issues.[4] These people who have had long-term COVID symptoms are now diagnosed with Post COVID-19 Syndrome. This syndrome includes a variety of new, returning, or ongoing symptoms that people who have suffered from COVID for more than four weeks after getting COVID can experience.[5]

The other factors contributing to healthcare staffing shortages are varied, from not spending money because people were not able to go out, so in turn were able to save more[6], enhanced unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, skill shortage, and burnout.

Since there are distinct reasons and contributing factors, how can a clinic, practice, or hospital that knows these factors combat shortages in healthcare staffing?

Healthcare Staffing Shortages Are Not New

For over a decade, we have known of the looming healthcare staffing shortage, which has contributed to burnout and the aging physician population.[7]

Just before the pandemic, duties related to Electronic Health Records (EHR’s) were the reason why 40% of physicians were burnt out. As the Director of Biomedical Informatics Research at UNM noted, “We are losing the equivalent of seven graduating classes of physicians yearly to burnout and, as they leave the profession, they point their finger at the time now required for them to document their work and how it has led to the loss of quality time spent with patients and families.”[8]

Circumstances will not change until we acknowledge and make necessary changes. Physicians and others who work under health systems can only plead for so long until they choose a different path.

The United States healthcare system as a whole cannot afford to ignore these pleas. We must appreciate these legitimate concerns and look to find reasonable solutions to the very serious, consistent issue at hand.

Let us all work together to find a solution to the ongoing and worsening healthcare staffing shortage issue.