31 August 2023

The Present State of Healthcare Staffing Shortages in North America

Wayne Burgess
Wayne Burgess

The North American healthcare landscape has been grappling with a significant challenge that predates the COVID-19 pandemic but has been sharply accentuated by it - a burgeoning healthcare staffing shortage. 

It is an issue warranting immediate attention and effective mitigation strategies, such as use of the contingent workforce, given its implications on patient care quality and the well-being of healthcare professionals.

One must first understand the scale and depth of this problem. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. alone could face a physician shortage ranging from 54,100 to 139,000 by 2033. 

Similarly, a recent report by the Government of Canada Employment and Social Development expects that there will be about 78,700 physician job openings over the 2022-2031 period.

What is Contributing to the Healthcare Staffing Shortage crisis? 

The causes are multi-faceted. Foremost, the aging population of North America is driving increased healthcare needs. The U.S. Census Bureau reveals that by 2034, there will be more people over 65 than under 18, a first in the country's history. 

The scenario in Canada is no different, with one in four Canadians expected to be 65 or older by 2031. This aging populace necessitates a greater need for medical professionals, escalating the demand-supply gap.

Secondly, the healthcare workforce itself is aging, with many reaching retirement age. This is particularly acute in the nursing field, where one-third of the workforce in Canada is estimated to be 50 years or older. When these professionals retire, the system risks a significant experience and knowledge drain.

Lastly, the burnout and stress levels experienced by healthcare professionals have surged during the pandemic, contributing to higher attrition rates. The "COVID fatigue" phenomenon, marked by relentless work hours, emotional exhaustion, and a persisting sense of crisis, has hastened many to consider early retirement or career shifts, exacerbating the staffing crisis.

How Does the Staffing Shortage Affect Healthcare Delivery?

The staffing shortage impacts healthcare delivery in multiple ways. Patient care quality can decline, with staff stretched thin, leading to increased patient wait times, reduced patient-doctor interaction time, and increased likelihood of mistakes due to fatigue. 

In addition, the existing workforce faces the brunt of the overburdened system, leading to high levels of job dissatisfaction, stress, and burnout, prompting a vicious cycle of workforce attrition.

Addressing this issue calls for systemic, strategic, and innovative solutions. Including:

  • Prioritizing investment in medical education, such as increasing training seats and offering incentives to pursue careers in the industry.
  • Streamline immigration to encourage overseas-trained healthcare professionals to practice in underserved areas.
  • Utilize technology such as telemedicine, artificial intelligence, and robotics to help shoulder clinical burdens, streamline processes, and expand healthcare access and augment (not replace) existing human caregivers.
  • Promote wellness and burnout mitigation strategies by enhancing the work-life balance, providing mental health support, and developing resilience programs.
  • Effective workforce planning and utilizing the contingent workforce to supplement permanent employees and boost organizational agility. 

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How a Vendor Management System Can Help Solve the Healthcare Staffing Shortage

When healthcare organizations are utilizing contingent workers, the sourcing of those workers can be a messy process. Sending emails, using spreadsheets, and manually tracking your metrics means your process is slow and laborious, impacting your access to the talent you need when you need them. 

A Vendor Management System (VMS) puts all your staffing agencies and independent contractors at your fingertips, working together in a coordinated and visible fashion. You will improve time-to-fill and worker quality metrics, which are critical to your organization's success. 

Choosing the right VMS, however, is essential. The Healthcare industry requires specific tools to manage its contingent workforce. This adds complexity that most VMS’ simply can't handle. 

In conclusion, the healthcare staffing shortage in North America is a deep-seated issue that threatens the quality and accessibility of patient care. Addressing this crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, leveraging policy interventions, technology, and a commitment to prioritize the well-being of our healthcare workforce. Utilizing a VMS can help ensure that your healthcare system is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Read more articles about VMS for Healthcare:

➡️ VMS For Healthcare: Get Control of Your Extended Healthcare Workforce➡️ Top 5 Considerations when Choosing a VMS for Healthcare➡️ How to Tackle Workforce Shortages With Contingent Healthcare Staffing➡️ 5 Must Have Features when Choosing a VMS for Healthcare ➡️ 5 Ways Healthcare Utilizes a VMS Differently from other Sectors

The Conexis Difference: Built for The Healthcare Industry  

The healthcare sector demands specialized tools to effectively manage its contingent workforce, a challenge that most VMS solutions struggle to address.

However, Conexis stands out with its tailored VMS functionality designed to meet the unique needs of the healthcare industry. From resource pooling to job assignments, managing work shifts, and handling per diem billing, Conexis simplifies the process of sourcing, managing, and compensating both clinical and non-clinical staff members, making it a valuable asset for healthcare organizations. Read more at Conexis VMS for Healthcare.

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Interested in learning more about Vendor Management Solutions?

Whether you are looking for a new VMS Solution, or just getting started, we are here to help.  See how easy Conexis is to use by taking a quick 2 minute Self-Guided Tour.  Contact Us for a Free No-Obligation Consultation to discuss your workforce challenges (and get immediate actionable insights) or Book a Personal Demo Today! 

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Wayne Burgess

Wayne Burgess

Wayne Burgess is the President of Conexis, a technology company focused on helping organizations get control of their Contingent workforce.

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