The healthcare industry’s greatest challenge was front and center at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce’s annual Perspectives on Florida’s Healthcare. Industry leaders from across South Florida gathered at the Signature Grand in Davie, Florida, on November 1 to recognize excellence in healthcare and discuss workforce recruitment and retention in a post-pandemic climate. Attendees engaged in panel discussions and CEO “speed dating,” sharing concerns and possible solutions.
Healthcare Staffing Shortage
“It’s no secret that there is a healthcare staffing shortage,” said Patty Jeffrey, RN, Executive Vice President of International Operations for MedPro International and President of the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR). “As the industry leader in the international recruitment, training, and staffing of foreign-educated healthcare professionals, MedPro is actively working to fill these open positions.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 200,000 openings on average for registered nurses each year for the next decade. Jeffrey and Vice President of Client Services, Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Rosemarie Aznavorian, RN, shared their perspective on meeting staffing demands with attendees and hospital CEOs focused on delivering quality care.
Healthcare systems were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the coronavirus did not ignite the U.S. nursing deficit. A shrinking workforce, an aging U.S. population, and a lack of facilities and teachers to train new nurses all contributed to the gap. A 2017 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study projected demand for 3.6 million registered nurses by 2030.
Demand for Nurses
COVID-19 “illuminated the critical importance of nurses,” but the pandemic also “disrupted long-standing employment patterns,” according to “The Future of Nursing 2020-2030,” report from the National Academies Health and Medicine Division. Many nurses left during the pandemic for high-paying travel assignments, and facilities conducted furloughs and layoffs to compensate for the decrease in elective procedure revenue. Broward Health has been proactive, offering incentives such as bonuses and pension plans to attract registered nurses back. Still, demand for nursing is expected to increase locally by 31 percent through 2035, according to a Florida Hospital Association and Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida report.
MedPro uses a multipronged approach placing the best qualified, foreign-educated healthcare professionals and travel nurses to address short- and long-term care needs at facilities across the United States. “Each facility is unique and has its own specific demands and requirements,” said Dr. Aznavorian. “Still, we’ve found that an 80-10-10 formula (80 percent permanent staff, 10 percent international staff, and 10 percent travel staff) seems to enable facilities to best meet their needs.”
Learning to Pivot
Locally and nationally, healthcare providers have learned to pivot, embracing recruitment, training, and partnerships to maintain a strong workforce and ensure quality care for patients. U.S. High schools and universities have teamed up to allow students to earn college credit courses toward clinical nursing assistant certification, and universities have developed coalitions to attract more students to nursing.
Despite the challenges, attendees at Perspectives on Florida’s Healthcare took a moment to celebrate the winners of the Excellence in Healthcare Awards and Jamie Caldwell, ACHE, President of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association and Lifetime Achievement Award winner. For a full list of winners and speakers, visit the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.