Actively seeking solutions to healthcare staffing challenges, administrators at this year’s convention agree that more agency markup fees are NOT the answer
After a couple of years of pandemic quarantines, it was a welcome sight to see the crowds of healthcare administrators and care providers filling the Sheraton lobby and expo ballrooms of the Greensboro Convention Center. The energy in the air was unmistakable, and filled with a common enthusiasm we all shared at getting to see friends and colleagues again! But within hours of arriving, I overhead a greeting exchange that set the tone for the event and the theme for conversations that followed.
“Hi, good to see you, how have you been?”
“Hey! I've been good. How are you, hanging in there?”
“Oh, you know, just trying to find and keep staff”
The Definition of Insanity
As the show went on this “find and keep staff” refrain occurred over and again. I had several individual and group discussions about healthcare’s staffing challenges. Regardless of the primary topic, sessions led by keynotes tended to circle back to these same themes. A colleague said to me, “We keep doing the same things, but the world has changed around us."
“We all need to take a step back," he continued. "Let’s get smart people in a room and figure this out! Let’s talk to our staff, the ones that are still here, and let’s ask them what they want and need; and how we can help.”
As he spoke, my mind kept recalling the old adage about the definition of insanity (which may or may not be attributable to Einstein): Insanity is doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results.
I get so frustrated when I think of how we’ve collectively answered the staffing shortage by throwing money at the situation. The wasted agency markup fees are not sustainable. It's clear that we, collectively as an industry, need to stop doing the same thing day-in-day-out and expecting anything to change.
Every Journey Begins with a Single Step
At Matchwell, healthcare’s very first Un-Agency, we don’t have all the answers. To do staffing properly over the long term, there’s an entire ecosystem of technology and workforce training that healthcare organizations will need to master. It’s not easy, but then again, none of the things that really matter ever are.
One of the closing sessions by industry thought leader Eric Collette helped bring our staffing crisis conversation full circle. He challenged us to think of what we will do tomorrow, and each day, to impact change. In his thoughtful presentation on “Three Keys to Retaining a Vibrant and Engaged Workforce”, Collette referenced a Darren Hardy book called “The Compound Effect”. Colette explained that where we find ourselves today, meaning our healthcare staffing issues or anything else for that matter, is the direct result of small but consistent choices we’ve made.
It’s not like we intentionally decided to drive our staff out of our buildings and into the waiting hands of the agencies; who would then turn around and “sell” these same clinicians back to us at higher rates. We never made that one big decision. However, our repeated series of actions have added together and compounded into a significant problem. We now have excessive agency markup fees putting significant strain on our bottom lines. And something has to be done.
So just as our micro actions have led to our current situation, we can reverse that path by taking a series of consistent positive steps toward sustainability. Whatever action you take first to solve your staffing challenges is not the concern — just do something!
Again I’m reminded of a few of my favorite sayings:
When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!
And remember, every journey begins with a single step.
More Conversations from NCHCFA 2022
What do you think? What were your main takeaways from the NCHCFA 2022 Convention? And most importantly, what are you doing to make change happen in your organization? We’d love to hear from you. And, in case you missed it, here are just a few of the social posts from the conference.