- For the second year in a row, hospital CEOs said workforce challenges were the No. 1 concern facing their organizations, according to a survey out Monday from the American College of Healthcare Executives.
- Financial challenges were the second largest concern, followed by behavioral health and addiction issues.
- Before staffing woes took the top spot last year, financial challenges had previously ranked as the top concern for 16 consecutive years.
The survey findings demonstrate the gravity of current ongoing staffing shortages, even ranking higher in concern among executives than financial challenges as hospitals recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The healthcare workforce has undergone massive shifts throughout the public health emergency, with widespread burnout leading to more labor turnover and further exacerbating staffing shortages. Nurses in particular have been engaged in labor actions including strikes to get updated staffing language and pay raises to better recruit and retain needed staff outlined in new employment contracts in the past year.
Patient quality and safety, government mandates, care access, patient satisfaction and physician-hospital relations were other concerns listed in the ACHE survey, which included responses from 281 community hospital CEOs.
Within the category of workforce challenges, CEOs cited shortages of registered nurses, technicians and therapists as top problems, along with burnout among non-physician staff.
For those citing financial concerns, increasing labor costs and Medicaid reimbursements are top challenges.
Behavioral health concerns include a lack of appropriate facilities or programs in the community, scarce funding and insufficient reimbursement for services.
“Hospitals need to take both long- and short-term measures to address critical workforce issues so they can continue to provide safe, high-quality care now and in the future,” ACHE President and CEO Deborah Bowen said in a release.
In the short term, hospitals should focus on supporting and developing staff and “organizing services to reflect the realities of the labor market and exploring alternative models of care,” Bowen said.
Long-term solutions include enhancing pipelines of new healthcare workers through partnerships with colleges and other organizations.
Some major hospital operators have partnered with nursing schools as those schools face shortages of educators and clinical sites. HCA Healthcare, which acquired a majority ownership stake in Galen College of Nursing in 2020, has since helped open several campuses in a bid to build its nursing workforce in the long term.