Rethinking Workforce Management in the Post-Acute Care Space
Workforce management is a challenge in any industry, but the post-acute care industry faces multiple unique challenges. From lack of staff to scheduling complexities, workforce management not only affects caregivers and supervisors, but it also impacts the quality of care a facility can provide – and that facility’s reputation, in turn.
Rethinking workforce management can help solve many of these challenges, improving a post-acute care facility’s ability to ensure proper staffing, communicate effectively with staff, and provide residents with top-quality care.
Strategies to Address Staff Shortages
As senior vice president of product management at healthcare staffing and scheduling platform IntelyCare, Rachel Schiff has seen facilities face those common challenges firsthand. She explains that a lack of staff is one of the primary challenges, but inadequate staffing can lead to additional problems.
“There has been tremendous burnout among nurses and nursing assistants from working throughout COVID-19, and overall there has been a loss of nurses and nursing assistants from retirement as well,” she states. With reduced staff, facilities need to be able to quickly react to changing conditions, whether that might be a last-minute callout, a COVID-19 outbreak, additional census, or other changes. The staff shortage has also made it more challenging for healthcare facilities to schedule per diem nurses and ensure that shifts are filled.
Facilities must also effectively manage costs while still retaining and engaging their overburdened staff. “We have seen facilities and staff working together to do their best to maintain quality of care,” says Schiff. “It is well known that staffing levels and consistency of staffing both contribute to the quality of care, so it is imperative that facilities maintain full staff levels. We have seen nurses leaving the workforce because of excessive workloads during COVID-19.”
Schiff suggests that facilities develop relationships with particular nurses and nursing assistants to increase consistency, even with outside per diem staff. “At IntelyCare we provide a “Book Me” feature to allow facilities to request specific nursing professionals,” she explains. “For morale in general, we have seen a lot of creativity from facilities providing additional benefits during the pandemic, and looking to adopt more efficient scheduling tools to improve efficiency for staff and management.”
The Role of Technology in Workforce Management
Technology plays an essential role in workforce management, and facilities that aren’t using technology-based staffing solutions may face additional and unnecessary challenges. “Often we see situations where the Scheduler and the Administrator or Director of Nursing are not aligned on an overall staffing strategy,” says Schiff.
“We occasionally have facilities that didn’t realize how often a scheduler was turning to an outside agency, or how much they are paying for agency or overtime costs. Balancing the need for adequate, safe staffing, and the need for managing costs can interfere with one another.”
Staffing software can solve many of the problems that result when workforce management becomes disjunct within facility. Schiff notes that many facilities will use Excel or even paper and pen to create and maintain schedules, whereas software solutions are much more effective. Software can let staff pick up shifts and see their schedules on their phones. With a software system, supervisors can reach out to staff via text message to automatically back-fill call-offs, and facilities can better manage and predict overtime costs.
Embracing technology can also help post-acute care facilities better navigate the changing requirements that result from the pandemic. Schiff explains that facilities need to be able to access essential elements like technology-enabled exposure tracing, COVID-19 testing oversight, and advanced infection control training. “If the COVID-19 vaccine does become a requirement in facilities, as we anticipate it will, technology will enable nursing professionals to upload their proof of vaccine right to an app,” she says.
Additional Workforce Management Solutions
Many facilities lack the tools to efficiently manage staffing and scheduling, and that can result in reduced efficiency and extra staffing challenges. Schiff explains that at IntelyCare, “we offer solutions that simplify facilities’ staffing & scheduling operations, so they can focus on supporting their staff and providing top-quality care.”
Features like the personalized IntelyCare Staffing online portal mean facilities have real-time access to IntelyCare’s workforce of nurses and nursing assistants. With that workforce, facilities can quickly and efficiently fill vacant shifts with qualified professionals. “We’ll ping them when their shift has been filled, and our geolocation software will notify them when an IntelyPro is on their way to your shift, along with their estimated arrival time,” says Schiff.
“Using our On-Demand Scheduling platform, our facilities can directly engage with your full-time staff through their mobile devices and give them the power to swap or pick up shifts,” Schiff notes. This technology helps facilities to fill empty shifts before they become an issue, and it also creates more accountability than when staff swap shifts via word of mouth. As a result, staff aren’t left with the extra work they would otherwise see when a shift isn’t fully staffed. This technology can help to keep staff happy, prevent nurse burnout, and increase retention, saving supervisors and administrators valuable time.
Many post-acute care facilities already faced workforce management challenges before the pandemic. Unfortunately, the pandemic exacerbated those challenges and introduced new ones, too. By embracing technology – particularly staffing software – facilities can save time, manage their staffing more efficiently, and deliver the quality care that residents need to thrive.
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