Navigating Nurse Staffing Post-Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the US healthcare system in 2020, and will undoubtedly change the face of healthcare for years to come. This year, hospitals have been squeezed from both ends. Cash-strapped rural hospitals were put on the brink of closure with the pause on elective procedures, while the more hard-hit metropolitan hospitals dealt with an influx of patients in Covid-19 wards.

Regardless of size or geographic location, healthcare facilities nationwide have struggled due to the pandemic. On top of that, healthcare systems continue to be challenged with another surge of cases on the horizon.

Nurses are the front-line heroes on fighting the outbreak and are at risk of becoming burned out. Nurse leaders need to assess the state of their nursing units and determine their next steps when it comes to staffing needs. Here is what you need to know about nurse staffing post-Covid-19.

Define organizational goals. Your organization should have goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART goals). As a nurse leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure everyone on your team clearly understands your goals. When defining your goals, consider how they may have changed since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Goals can be categorized around patient satisfaction, organizational culture, nurse staffing, budget, etc. Specify when you want to achieve your goals and how you plan to measure success. For example, if you have a goal to increase contingency spend, strategize tactics to cut costs during an allocated time span. After defining your goals, you will need to look internally to spot any weak points or opportunities.

Assess state of units. Determining the state of your facility can help identify areas of opportunity for your staff and can help them best acclimate to a new post-pandemic culture. Conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to find factors impacting your organization. External threats to consider are retiring nurses, the lack of new grad RNs (as a result of Covid-19), nurses leaving the bedside, and opportunities brought on by telemedicine and technology opening up new opportunities not present before Covid-19.

PREMIUM CONTENT: US Healthcare Staffing Market Assessment: 2020 Update

Identify what the common staffing challenges are for your organization. Common obstacles that nurse leaders face are retention and recruitment, registered nurse experience gap, leader turnover, workplace violence, and nurse burnout. For a full list of chief nursing officers’ concerns in 2020, visit Avant Healthcare Professionals’ CNO Roundtable Recap.

Inventory your current nurse placements. As the nursing shortage worsens, healthcare leaders are looking for innovative solutions to help with staffing challenges. Examine what types of placements you have on your team, including travelers, per diem nurses, permanent placement nurses, or new grads.

More hospitals in the US rely on nurse staffing agencies to fill critical placements and bridge the experience gap. Established agencies streamline the process for both healthcare professionals and hospitals alike, with some providing additional support like housing, specialized education and relocation assistance.

International nurse staffing is becoming increasingly popular around parts of the US, as they can be significantly less than travelers, and can add stability to high-turnover units. Nurses recruited through Avant Healthcare Professionals work on a contract with the agency until they convert to the hospital’s full-time staff. Internationally-experienced nurses also impact the neighborhood they are placed in by diversifying the community and positively impacting the local economy.

Map out recruitment and retention strategies. Nurse leaders will need a multi-faceted approach to staffing to ensure patient safety during the nursing shortage. With the high turnover rates of new nurses and increasing nurse retirement rates, it’s critical for hospitals to recruit and retain skilled nurses more than ever before.

For recruitment tactics, nurse leaders are offering sign-on bonuses, tuition assistance, and improved pay packages. They are also investing in academic partnerships, marketing collateral, internal recruitment, and staffing agencies.

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in nurse mental health challenges, with reports of nurses leaving the profession altogether. To retain skilled RNs, nurse leaders should consider implementing new programs to promote psychological resilience. Programs including nurse-cross training, mental health workshops, nurse leadership development, nurse resiliency training, crisis intervention training, and nurse recognition may be valuable resources to provide.

For a complete interactive guide to navigating nurse staffing post-pandemic, visit our downloadable resource, which includes a full list of tactics and strategies to help nurse leaders during this unprecedented time.


Brian Hudson

Brian Hudson
Brian Hudson is an experienced healthcare staffing executive with more than 20 years of experience in strategic leadership and healthcare staffing, including international nurse staffing. He can be reached at bhudson (at) avanthealthcare (dot) com.

Brian Hudson

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