Caitlin Kinney

The healthcare industry has forever been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. From providers and nurses to techs and therapists, this segment of the job market has been through unimaginable trauma. Beyond clinicians, healthcare workers in marketing, communications and other non-clinical roles all answered the call and managed the unforeseeable needs of the pandemic – while struggling with operational and personal challenges. Today, we can start to glean what we’ve learned the last few years and what that means for the future of healthcare staffing.

How We Got Here

  1. Burnout – The most obvious, and valid, reason. Healthcare workers have borne the brunt of caring for the public during the pandemic. Patient volumes during the height of the pandemic pushed hospital staff to their limits, and in some cases, to their breaking points. Going all-out, all the time with no end in sight, left many feeling they had no choice but to seek other employment opportunities. For instance, many nurses have left their hospitals for less stressful environments, such as doctors’ offices and schools – while others have abandoned the profession entirely.
  2. Vaccine Mandates – The attitudes of healthcare workers toward the COVID-19 vaccine often mirrored the rest of the country – with many identifying as vaccine-hesitant or vaccine-resistant. Widespread misinformation, hesitancy and vaccine mandates left many healthcare workers feeling forced to leave.
  3. Competition – Healthcare staffing shortages began before the pandemic, and COVID-19 only exacerbated the problem. Between lucrative signing bonuses, relocation packages and traveling opportunities, recruitment and retention of hospital staff has become an ongoing challenge.

How To Combat Staffing Struggles

Even though we’ve become experts in expecting the unexpected, we can always use a few tips and tricks when it comes to staffing shortages. Here are three ways you can combat inevitable staffing struggles AND stand out from the ever-present competition.

  1. Cut Through the Clutter – It seems obvious, but we still see it daily – the same copy and cliches rule the recruitment world in healthcare. Take the time to do your research and clearly communicate what sets your organization apart from the competition. The key here is to ensure your messaging is true and believable. Check out a recent recruitment video we created for Colquitt Regional Medical Center – an organization that can truly deliver a desirable work-life balance. The full campaign landing page and videos can be viewed here.
  2. Be Humble – While signing bonuses and other perks will always tempt staff to leave an organization, money isn’t the only thing that employees value. For many, gratitude goes a long way. In addition to recruitment strategies, be sure to double down on retention strategies – thanking staff for staying with the organization throughout an impossibly stressful time.
  3. Experiment – This new era of employment requires new outreach channels. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your media and marketing mix in order to stand out. Dedicate a portion of your budget purely to experimental campaigns and see what sticks.

How This Affects Patients

With COVID-19 cases down overall, and patients finally feeling comfortable resuming their regular care appointments, hospitals are feeling the pressure to bring business back to their clinics. So, the clinic calls their marketing departments in a fury to help build volume, only for the patient to find out there isn’t an available appointment for six months or they can’t reach the scheduling department because of long wait times. For anything that the marketing department is going to promote, the most important consideration is the patient path. What obstacles are there, if any? If there are barriers that marketing cannot control, i.e. referral processes, scheduling delays or anything else, then pause on starting any initiatives until those barriers can be removed. It’s of no benefit to the marketing team, or the clinic/physician, to push traffic to a service that’s not ready to receive new patients. It’s best to resolve any issues before driving more patients to an experience that doesn’t benefit a clinic or physician.

  1. Map Out a Strategy – Even with limited resources, start building your marketing plan and strategy for each service line – based on reality as it stands today. But, remain nimble. Discuss the plan with leadership and agree to reevaluate the strategy and corresponding goals quarterly.
    1. What is, or isn’t, working?
    2. How has the healthcare climate changed?
    3. Does messaging need tweaking?
    4. Can you enhance the plan in place?
  2. Ensure Operational Readiness – Stay in constant communication with your operational counterparts. You do not want to exacerbate an already bad experience for patients by sending them to services and locations that are not operationally ready. Patients will seek care elsewhere if they have trouble getting an appointment, encounter long wait times or experience unpleasant staff.
  3. Analyze, Optimize and Repeat – As we’ve learned throughout the pandemic, priorities can shift on a dime. But we have to start somewhere. Begin with a goal that is attainable now, track it and report on it. Revisit your goals quarterly to make sure they’re still priorities or pivot where needed. As you get comfortable with this cycle, it will get easier to repeat as changes present themselves.

Partner with Frederick Swanston and arm yourself with innovative and effective strategies to combat the effects of the “Great Resignation”. Together, we’ll bring the care back into every aspect of healthcare. Contact us here.