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How To Improve Short Staffing in Nursing: Top Tips To Keep Positions Filled With Satisfied Employees

Written by , Healthcare Workforce Trends
August 29, 2023

In today’s healthcare world, labor gaps and staff turnover nearly go hand in hand with hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. 

Short staffing in nursing can pose significant challenges to patient care, staff morale, turnover, and workflow, and it also presents potential financial burdens.

Nursing directors and human resources managers should be empowered to implement solutions to short staffing in nursing that can relieve some of the burdens on staff.  

Healthcare facilities can mitigate short staffing and ensure a satisfied, supported, and committed nursing staff with the tips we’ll share in this article.

Keep reading to learn how to improve short staffing in nursing so your existing workforce can help provide a positive patient experience and you can help mitigate turnover.


solutions to nurse staffing problems


Table of Contents


Why Are There Nurse Staffing Shortages?

An estimated 600,000 baby boomer RNs have not yet retired and are expected to leave the workforce by 2030.

Healthcare leaders are faced with the question of how to keep their facilities staffed properly due to:

  • Concerns about budget and potential financial burdens 
  • The supply of new nurses unable to keep up with the rate of retirement
  • The fact that there is a greater need for nursing care

We’ll look further into these factors, and how they affect nursing staff, below.


The Population Is Aging and Has a Greater Need for Nursing Care

The U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of Registered Nurses that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing schools across the country are struggling to expand their capacity to meet the rising demand for care.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections 2021-2031, the Registered Nursing (RN) workforce is expected to grow by 6% over the next decade.

The Bureau also projects 203,200 openings for RNs each year through 2031 when nurse retirements and workforce exits are factored into the number of nurses needed in the U.S.


Medical Facilities Have Budget Concerns

Recruitment and hiring can be costly — according to a recent survey, the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN is $52,350, a 13.5% increase from 2021, resulting in the average hospital losing between $6.6-$10.5 million.

Staffing costs often take up a significant portion of a facility’s operating costs, so it’s understandable that it would be the first place to look when trying to trim expenses. 

There are several strategies a facility may look at to address budget concerns, including reducing staffing levels or turning to lower-paid or contingent staff like certified nursing assistants or licensed practical nurses.


There Aren’t Enough New Nurses Coming Up Through the Ranks

A 2018 study shared that the size of the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) RN workforce is projected to grow to 4.54 million in 2030, enough to replace all the baby boomer RNs who will retire over the decade. 

But, because this projected growth will not occur uniformly across the nation, the replacement of the large numbers of retiring RNs by younger nurses will vary by state and by region. 

Thus, healthcare organizations in some regions of the country will confront more rapid retirements and slower replacements among their RN workforce relative to other regions, which could in turn result in staffing disruptions. 


solutions to short staffing in nursing


7 Solutions to Nurse Staffing Problems

Now that you understand a bit more about why there are shortages, it’s time to ask, “What can be done about it?” Read on for potential solutions for healthcare facilities.


#1: Use an MSP To Backfill Empty Positions

Quality staffing takes time — in 2023, the average time to recruit an experienced RN ranged from 75 to 105 days, depending on the specialty.

While healthcare facilities are focused on recruiting quality candidates, an MSP can backfill empty positions with temporary staff as the facility prepares to hire permanent staff.

Contingent staff can help alleviate the burdens on existing nurses that may be feeling the effects of being short-staffed and to supplement units that may be experiencing high patient ratios or increased workload. 

By ensuring reasonable staffing levels, facilities can help prevent burnout among permanent nursing staff.


how to improve short staffing in nursing


#2: Rethink Your Staffing Models

Reconsidering traditional staff models and exploring innovative approaches can be effective solutions to nurse staffing problems. This might look like: 

  • Adopting strategies that maximize the utilization of existing personnel 
  • Leveraging new roles and technologies
  • Utilizing advanced practice providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants
  • Implementing collaborative care models

Moreover, embracing telehealth and remote monitoring technologies can expand the reach of healthcare providers, allowing them to serve more patients without the need for additional staff. This can be particularly beneficial in rural or underserved areas. 

Flexible work arrangements, like part-time or remote work options where appropriate, can attract professionals who might not have otherwise considered full-time positions.

By reimagining staff models in healthcare, organizations can make the most of their existing workforce while addressing staff shortages. 


#3: Ditch Excel Spreadsheets for Innovative Scheduling Tools

Technology today allows forecasted staffing to analyze past data trends to accurately and holistically view all available labor sources. 

As a healthcare facility, consider a forecasting tool to help forecast a proactive staffing plan that considers metrics including:

  • The average amount of paid and unpaid leaves each month
  • Turnover percentages
  • Seasonal trends

This forecasted plan can help your scheduling team build a more proactive and agile staffing plan.

With an easily managed system and reliable source of quality temporary workers, a healthcare MSP can enable you to give your permanent staff the time and support they need to feel invested in their jobs. 

Many contingent workers have holiday shifts incorporated into their contracts.

Knowing ahead of time exactly how much holiday coverage you will have from your temporary staff can allow you to reward your permanent staff with more favorable shifts or time off during in-demand periods like holiday weekends.


#4: Decrease Turnover and Retain Current Staff

It’s much more cost-effective to retain current staff than it is to recruit, hire, and train new staff.

These retention strategies can help utilize your facility’s existing workforce by ensuring they’re supported and empowered.


Ways To Improve Staff Satisfaction


Engage in Proactive Feedback

When you use a healthcare MSP, you have a single point of contact for any proactive feedback about how a nurse is performing, and helps keep a pulse on how engaged the current staff is via constant communication.

Periodic review sessions between Trusted Management Services and your facility allow time to discuss the nurses’ performance and get ahead of any problems or situations in the future which can help both ensure staff satisfaction and mitigate turnover. 


Empower Your Staff 

Giving your staff a sense of being in control of their schedule and work lives can help them feel more invested at work, which can lead to higher levels of engagement.

This might look like offering:

  • Flexible schedules
  • Emotional and mental health support, including access to confidential counseling services or Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
  • Ongoing training and professional development opportunities to enhance knowledge, skills, or career advancement prospects 
  • Physical health and wellness initiatives


Use an MSP To Sustain an Efficient, Productive Work Environment

With multiple vendors at our disposal, Trusted Managed Services is poised to bring you the best staffing talent and centralize your contingent staffing to save you time and simplify the process. 

Moreover, a Trusted Managed Services representative is assigned to each program area to make sure all processes go smoothly with regard to:

  • Payroll
  • Recruitment
  • Credentialing
  • Contracting and Insurance


how to improve short staffing in nursing


#5: Let Retired Nurses Help Fill in the Gaps

Retired nurses can play a vital role in filling staffing gaps and alleviating short staffing. Their prior experience and knowledge make them great mentors for newer nurses and hands-off hires as they often require little training. 

Whether hired part-time, per-diem, contingent, contract, or otherwise, retired nurses who work as contingent staff are great resources to provide relief during peak periods or emergencies or for support in non-clinical roles (ie. education or administration) freeing up full-time nurses to focus on patient care. 


#6: Make More Room in Your Budget by Working With an MSP

By utilizing an MSP, medical facilities may be able to come up with extra cash flow to pay nurses thanks to:

  • More efficient workflows 
  • Creating a single source for billing, payroll, etc.
  • Creating better cost-controls with vendors

With Trusted Managed Services, there are no costs for facilities, including the use of our VMS software. Instead, the vendors who participate in the VMS are charged a rebate percentage off of the bill rates, which is typically a 3-5% fee. 

An MSP further reduces costs by negotiating rates from suppliers and managing a VMS, so your healthcare facility can utilize its internal resources to focus on patient care.

Even better, contrary to the misconception that MSPs only benefit larger facilities, Trusted Managed Services offers a fully scalable and customizable workplace solution, whether you’re a small healthcare facility or an expansive hospital network.

At Trusted Managed Services, we listen to you to determine your needs and goals and work together to develop an MSP strategy that provides only the specific services your facility needs to succeed.


how to deal with short staffing in nursing


#7: Automate Processes and Give Nurse Managers More Time To Do Their Jobs

As mentioned above, when an MSP takes care of the necessary, but time-intensive tasks, nurse managers have more time to make sure their staff is satisfied and taken care of — which will help your facility retain staff and improve shortages.

For example, a managed service provider can take over and automate the onboarding details by streamlining:

  • Employee data and paperwork
  • Distribution lists; and
  • Policies

A reliable healthcare MSP easily manages your temporary workers, but a healthcare MSP can also help you give your full-time staff the time and support they need to do their jobs at the top of their capabilities. 


Trusted Managed Services Can Help Provide Solutions to Short Staffing in Nursing

Short staffing in nursing continues to prove a significant challenge for healthcare organizations. 

But with an MSP like Trusted Managed Services, decision-makers and nursing directors can focus on providing existing staff members with the support they need to best care for their patients — without breaching the budget. 

Let Trusted Managed Services source a team of high-quality contract nurses to supplement your permanent staff and keep your company running reliably.

With multiple vendors at our fingertips, we can bring you the best staffing talent and save you time and money in the process.

Request an MSP demo to see how Trusted Managed Services can facilitate and accelerate the hiring process for your healthcare facility.


how to improve short staffing in nursing


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