Across industries, the topic of worker shortages has dominated conversations because the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the “great resignation.” And healthcare is no exception. But in healthcare, the stakes are greater than other industries because patient safety directly correlates to adequate staffing. Issues such as quality of care, medication errors, patient satisfaction, higher patient mortality, overcrowding, and more all can be linked to adequate staffing. With patient safety in mind, ECRI’s Top 10 Patient Safety list names staffing shortages as the number one challenge of the year. This spot at the top of ECRI’s widely-read annual list was given after experts analyzed a wide scope of data, including scientific literature, patient safety events or concerns reported to or investigated by ECRI or ISMP, client research requests and queries, and other internal and external data sources.
It’s important to know that the pandemic alone didn’t cause worker shortages, it simply exacerbated an already difficult situation. Before COVID reached healthcare facilities across the country, staffing managers and hiring officers have long been faced with shortages. The reasons for this are the result of a combination of factors: as the population ages, more healthcare workers are needed to care for them. But those workers themselves are also aging and reaching retirement age. Add in the pandemic, and its effect on healthcare workers, including COVID-19 deaths, illness, burnout, depression, and general frustration, and the numbers dwindle even more.
Furthermore, the shortages extend into administrative and support staff in addition to front line healthcare workers, all of whom play a role in patient safety, whether it’s through indirect care, scheduling, facilities management, or any of the many important “behind the scenes” cogs in the complex wheel of healthcare. The World Health Organization is predicting a shortage of 15 million healthcare workers worldwide by 2030.
As part of the Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns publication, ECRI has developed Action Recommendations to help organizations across the continuum of care prepare for and meet the challenges of staffing shortages. This document is free to download and offers a variety of assistance as well as additional supporting material.