For many, summer is a time for vacations, family gatherings and relaxation. For nurses, it can also be a time of increased stress and workload. With COVID lockdowns in the rearview mirror, nearly 85% of all American adults intend to travel this summer1, leaving healthcare providers scrambling to find coverage when their nurses are out on vacation. While the healthcare industry is already struggling with crisis-level nursing shortages, the upcoming summer months will only exacerbate the problem.
It's not just vacations that disrupt summer staffing. The summer heat also increases the demand on the healthcare system. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one study shows that heat waves can increase hospital admissions. Children under age five and the elderly are the most susceptible to heat-related hospitalizations. “For example, conditions such as diabetes and kidney disorders become more problematic, with hospital admissions for those conditions predicted to rise by 13 percent for every two degrees the mercury rises above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.”2 Individuals over the age of 60 years are the most vulnerable, which means that summertime affects the staffing needs of senior care and other extended care nursing facilities as well. Risks for heat-related illness are compounded for people with co-morbidities, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes.3
The impact of nurse staffing shortages can be significant, including nurse burnout, compromised patient safety and higher turnover (leading to more severe shortages). Healthcare providers that proactively plan for summer staffing are better positioned to avoid negative effects.
So what can healthcare providers do to prepare for summertime nursing shortages?
#1. Plan ahead. Don’t wait for your staff to put in last-minute vacation requests. Now is the time to ask them about their plans and encourage them to submit their requests as early as possible. This will allow you to identify potential shortages and make arrangements to cover them. Additionally, it helps to have a plan in case of unexpected staffing shortages, whether for illness or a spike in patient volume. Having a platform-based staffing partner in place can be the difference between easily filling gaps and scrambling to find coverage.
#2. Consider hiring temporary staff. Temporary staff can ease the burden of staffing shortages and give your team more flexibility with their summer plans. This helps prevent your nurses from feeling burnt out when their team members are out, and it ensures that you’re ready for fluctuations in patient volume. A platform-based staffing partner can provide a reliable, cost-effective option for filling gaps in your schedule.
#3. Be flexible. If possible, allow your nurses to have more flexible schedules in the summer. Consider cross-training staff and allowing them to work different days or shifts to accommodate personal needs.
#4. Communicate with your staff. Keep your whole team in the know. No one wants to come in for a shift and be surprised that their teammate is out. Ensuring that everyone knows what to expect will reduce stress and protect morale.
#5. Offer incentives. If you can, consider offering incentives such as bonuses, stress management programs or on-site childcare for nurses who stick around during the summer.
If your hospital or skilled nursing facility needs help filling shifts this summer, Gale Healthcare Solutions can help. As a leading platform serving hospitals, long-term care and other extended care communities, Gale has nearly 65,000 clinicians across 40 states ready to step in and provide the staffing support you need. We can meet a wide variety of needs – from per diem to permanent positions. Find out why so many healthcare providers choose Gale. Contact us HERE for more information about how we can provide an efficient, flexible, high-quality solution to your staffing challenges.