Staffing shortages have been plaguing the healthcare industry for years and were even further exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19 on hospital operations. Not only were organizations scrambling to recruit and retain skilled nurses, but they also found themselves facing critical gaps in their Respiratory Therapy and Laboratory staff as well. To address the issue and secure the resources needed to effectively and safely provide care, hospitals and health systems began offering enticing, and in some cases exorbitant, sign-on bonuses. However, these “perks” seemed to be directed at only those high-profile positions and not evenly distributed across all vacancies. This approach left many healthcare professionals, especially those in support roles essential during the pandemic, feeling slighted and devalued. This situation raises the question of whether or not there should be uniformity to the recruitment process, offering everyone a piece of the proverbial pie!
Perhaps the first step that hospitals and health systems should make regarding their recruitment tactics is to review the actual need. The pandemic wreaked havoc on outpatient volumes and completely changed the landscape of care delivery. Pre-pandemic staffing models no longer translate to the recovering environment in a lot of areas. The enhanced cross-training that occurred to allow organizations to do more with less staff during the height of the COVID impact has also opened the door to new hybrid roles. Most importantly, the introduction of new technologies has elevated processes resulting in greater automation and more streamlined functions. Leaders need to evaluate current requisitions based on existing volume levels and future strategic direction. Now is the time to achieve proper staff alignment and modify position types to full-time, part-time, or per diem to create better scheduling flexibility. This balance will, in turn, allow for a fairer disbursement of bonus monies across the board if fewer positions are genuinely required.
It was recently announced that an Atlanta health system offered nurses up to $30,000 and respiratory therapists up to $18,000 in sign-on bonuses. While floating the expense of such incentives may be fiscally sustainable for larger organizations, they are, at the same time, building a culture that does not promote loyalty among the workforce, which leads to other staffing challenges. In singling out specific roles to receive rewards based only on title, licensure, or function and not contribution, other staff members are being alienated. The pandemic has helped reinforce just how critical good retention strategies are to developing high levels of job satisfaction and tenure among staff. While the power of the almighty dollar can address immediate needs, it cannot safeguard from long-term concerns. What is to prevent ancillary and support professionals from seeking opportunities elsewhere that promise recognition and equal bonus structures? Staff turnover comes at a high cost and organizations that are approaching recruitment in an unbalanced manner may find themselves spending even more to backfill unexpected vacancies in addition to dulling out the large sign-on bonuses advertised.
ALTIUS assists our client hospitals and health systems in their efforts to improve recruitment and retention practices through the use of productivity data and enhanced leadership education. We provide the support needed to vet current vacancies based on performance, implement an effective position control system, and elevate the delivery of contribution-based recognition and reward to all staff members.