HR Management & Compliance

How HR Challenges Are Shaping the Healthcare Industry

I am sure all of us are aware that employees are a company’s most significant asset. This is true across all industries, especially when it comes to health care, for which one needs highly trained professionals. Because medical professionals are responsible for others’ lives, meeting the needs of this workforce is extremely important and no piece of cake at the same time.

Growth, staff, and human capital management are priorities in every organization. But in the healthcare industry, patient outcome is an additional factor adding gravity to the HR role. As a result, this industry is continuously operating under a lot of pressure.

And because medical professionals work toward health and well-being, they deal with extreme stress levels, unlike other professions. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, such tensions have been at an all-time high among healthcare workers.

Role of HR in the Healthcare Industry

What role or how many functions does an HR professional have in the healthcare industry?

The answer to this question is complicated, as there is more to the role of HR than hiring doctors and nurses. Candidates ranging from PhD to entry-level are sourced, interviewed, and hired because of the variety of industry requirements. Staffing, training, development, and other miscellaneous roles all fall in the hands of HR in the healthcare industry.

Furthermore, in health care, both clinical and nonclinical workers are sought out and recruited based on their expertise, skill set, and willingness to provide exemplary services. HR professionals are always on their toes because the position is highly critical to patient outcomes.

Current Issues in Health Care

Rural clinics or city hospitals, small or big, feel the constant pressure. Staffing deficiencies and employee burnout are pretty common issues. To combat such issues, HR needs to figure out the problem areas and the solutions to combat them.

1.  Staffing Deficiencies

Staff shortages can often lead to life and death situations when it comes to the healthcare industry. People with the right skills can easily fit in here. However, recent studies show how health care is dealing with the recruitment pressure compared with other sectors.

With the ever-growing advances in medicine, new innovative technologies, and aging population, medical professionals have new demands and needs. In the coming years, these demands will increase manifold. As a result, health care is expected to add more jobs than any other industry to fill around 2.4 million vacancies. Also, according to research, with the retirement of Baby Boomers, the shortage of nurses will double by 2025.

2.  Competition for Wages

The tighter the market for talent, the higher the wages. However, when it comes to small facilities, it is next to impossible to compete at the wage level. In such circumstances, the talent search becomes difficult. So, to win this war, HR professionals resort to other options as a form of brand advocacy.

For medical professionals, work/life balance is rarely achieved. It is usually the high salary, job security, and satisfaction of doing something noble. Healthcare workers have been found to have one of the highest percentages in doing meaningful work.

3. Rates of Turnover

Recruitment in the healthcare industry is very challenging and time-consuming. With the demand rising more than ever and limited supply, the industry is struggling with employee retention. It often happens that due to the abundance of job opportunities in health care, employees leave if they are dissatisfied because they have ample options to choose from.

And for various reasons, more often than not, Millennials consider training, career growth, or benefits programs as more important than the paycheck. And when they do not receive what they consider important, they call it quits without any remorse.

Amid all these, turnover rates skyrocket. 2018 witnessed the highest turnover rate in a decade. These rates are costing hospitals millions, and things could only get worse. Especially among the nurses, turnover is high at 14.6%, implying that hospitals will have to lose out on 15 out of 100 nurses this year, and replacing them is neither cheap nor easy.

So it becomes complicated for an HR professional to deal with the constant need for turnover and employee retention.

4. Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is loosely related to both staff deficiencies and high turnover rates. It is caused by the former while having a compounding effect on the latter. Besides, burnout affects patients, as well, because medical employees cannot perform with all the emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion due to work. As job satisfaction is imperative in every industry, addressing the stress workers go through is essential.

If this isn’t appropriately considered, it creates burnout, further leading to loss of connection between healthcare professionals and patients, with the former becoming less sympathetic toward the latter. Ultimately, the situation becomes unpleasant. 

Mostly, burnout happens when employees feel underappreciated or have regrets about their career choice. According to survey results, the nursing department experiences the highest percentage of burnout at around 70%. Nurses often feel they can do a lot more than they are allowed to, or due to too many assigned patients, they are unable to give proper care.

5. Training and Development

Ongoing training, licensure, and career development are vital in the growing healthcare industry. And in the current world, employees are keen on learning new skills and getting access to the latest advancement opportunities. As standards of care change and electronic devices take over workplaces, this industry has shifted toward digitalization for all work purposes, from tracking patient charts to managing workflows.

So, in the world of constant change, employees deserve to be well updated and properly trained to excel at their positions. And it falls in HR’s domain to train staff beyond what we call “necessities,” and providing employee engagement opportunities in the form of training is crucial for the HR department.

Retention of employees also gets regulated when organizations offer training on leadership development, digitization, and soft skills that grow employee competencies and help them develop personally and professionally. While providing training can prove to be pretty expensive, the cost of new recruitments and training replacements is much higher.

Training your staff is a kind of investment, but it comes with a challenge for each system that needs the training to use it. In addition to that, workers will seek some support from management to motivate for the same.

Upcoming HR Issues

Some challenges might have long-lasting effects across the sector, which have to be dealt with intelligently. Besides, there will be additional challenges, too. A few of them that are likely to have a massive impact in the coming time are discussed below.

Safety Issues

One is prone to a lot of risks when working in the healthcare industry. From chemical hazards to workplace stress, this industry has it all, not to mention disease exposure. Physical safety is not guaranteed either. In fact, if we go by data, not more than 20% of workplace injuries happen in the healthcare industry, while 50% of assaults are committed here against workers.

Along with these, stressful work and drug access put the staff at serious risk. In such scenarios, the HR professional should come to aid while being observant to reduce employee risk.

Digital Mode

With everything shifting to digital mode, keeping pace requires a good amount of skill. And it doesn’t come that easy. Patient records, barcode scans, and medicines are all monitored by technology.

And as we know, technology keeps upgrading itself, making it essential for staff members to be up to date with the current trend. This means additional work for HR, as it will involve training, assessment, and forecasting. The ongoing requirement to assess, develop, and prepare for the digital era will pave the way for new learnings and technological innovations.

Data and Privacy

Data and privacy protection is one mandate that’s crucial across all industries. Digitization calls for everything digital, and when patient information is moved to online records, the need for privacy and security arises. Several regulations are introduced concerning security and digital tools.

When employees are not trained on the system, they tend to make mistakes. And employers and HR can’t afford any security-related mistakes. Therefore, intensive training is needed for the workforce, as the highest risk for data breach lies with staff. Research says staff members have committed around 71% of cybersecurity blunders.

Solution

The duties of an HR professional in health care can seem overwhelming. It is pretty challenging, and to meet employee needs, departments should take a lot of things into account.

Here are a few problem-solving ideas everyone can resort to while addressing healthcare challenges.

HR Document Management Systems

Human Resource management systems (HRMSs) and Human Resource information systems (HRISs) are platforms that can help employers automate tasks and manage vast amounts of employee data. Storing information manually in today’s world can make one go crazy. But the presence of digital systems has made such processes more accessible and convenient. They can prove to be resources and time-saving in both recruitment and onboarding.

Healthcare management, in general, does not allow for solid management functionalities like compliance monitors, easy audit capacity, etc. But it can resort to document management solutions that easily integrate with it.

Document Security

Maintaining a large amount of employee data comes with its challenges. Like they say, “With power comes great responsibility.” So securing employee documents and information is crucial for every organization. With document management systems, that becomes possible.

Document management systems guarantee that employee data are protected throughout. The inbuilt compliance tools assist HR professionals in preparing for the requirements beforehand and being ready.

Employee Engagement Tools

Employee engagement tools include engagement software that’s integral to HR functions. Along with improving the line of communication, such tools help collect meaningful employee feedback. Even if it seems unimportant, feedback plays a vital role while carrying out functions in a smooth manner.

When employees are provided with opportunities to share their thoughts and concerns, HR can better understand where and what aspect they are losing out on. Accordingly, employers can implement changes and fix the errors, thereby improving the employee experience and work culture.

Other Solutions

Employee retention, especially nurses, becomes a complex task, as their concerns are not often considered by employers. In such situations, HR should play it smart and make good use of its position to help retain employees. This is possible if HR personnel respond to the needs of their employees while creating an appealing and fulfilling work environment.

Training is a primary factor in the growth of an organization, as it improves the competency of the workforce. And one of the functional roles of HR is implementing new training workshops for the employees within the organization. So, as an HR professional, it is your responsibility to keep your staff up to date with the changing trends and new technology inventions. Only then will employees feel that growth is not stagnant and instead will learn and be interested in work, thereby boosting retention and increased productivity.

When the employees keep working their 24/7 regular jobs, efficiency, interest, and determination take a backseat. Often, this leads to a burnout situation. When the HR leader feels workers are unhappy with their daily work life, it is a telltale sign that something is gravely wrong.

And understanding this and acting positively toward fixing it are beneficial for both staff and the facility. Some burnout alleviations are possible through employee reward and recognition strategies and training programs to enhance job satisfaction among workers.

Conclusion

Being an HR professional is not easy, and when you belong to health care, it gets trickier. The medical industry’s challenges, from the largest facility to the smallest, are more or less the same. As a result, HR managers must never underestimate the risks to staff and patients—the challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s uncertainty.

HR professionals need to be constantly aware of the effects an overworked staff or shortage can have on patient care.

So, if you work in HR in health care or are aspiring to, consider these points for the entire organization to grow and develop on a grand scale, as it is always about the workforce.

Anjan Pathak is the Cofounder and CTO of Vantage Circle, a cloud-based employee engagement platform. He is an HR technology enthusiast, is very passionate about employee wellness, and actively participates in corporate culture growth. He is an avid reader and likes to be updated on the latest HR know-how.