The results of a nationwide survey of human resource (HR) leaders and chief nursing officers (CNOs) examining the dynamics and trends impacting talent at healthcare institutions find patient safety and quality of care on par with employee retention needs.

The study reveals that 84 percent of HR leaders and CNOs rate the quality of care and patient safety as the most critical issue to address in their organization, followed by strengthening employee engagement and retention (77 percent) and improving the caregiver experience (73 percent). 

However, only one in two leaders believed their organization has effectively improved employee recruitment (53 percent) or strengthened employee engagement and retention (51 percent).

“Healthcare institutions are facing monumental challenges due to talent shortages and stressful working conditions that were enhanced by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says John A. Martins, president, and chief executive officer of Cross Country Healthcare. “Although many leaders are actively investing in solutions to enhance employee recruitment, heighten the caregiver experience, and optimize and manage the workforce, fundamental changes are needed. There are sustainable and proven solutions that can help institutions invest in their employees from the ground up, curating a positive and safe experience for patients—the number one goal and priority.”

According to the survey, healthcare institutions are moving in the right direction to address the staffing crisis, with leaders reporting that their top priorities include:

  • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the hiring process.
  • Strengthening employee engagement and retention.
  • Improving employee attraction and recruitment.

When asked about healthcare organizations’ barriers to implementing workforce strategies, one HR leader responded, “It is keeping staff. A lot of people don’t want to work nowadays, and it’s hard to keep people interested, especially in healthcare.” 

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A CNO reported another challenge: “having enough RN staff available to hire. We are doing great with hiring to some extent but at the same time still have the younger workforce choosing to leave for ‘better hours,’ or a ‘better life balance blend.’”

“Between mass talent shortages, burnout , and resignations, health leaders are aware that they must adapt to a changing workforce landscape,” says Hank Drummond, chief nursing officer of Cross Country Healthcare. “Prioritizing work-life balance, mental health, and appropriate staffing is critical to ensuring that healthcare workers have the support they need to provide care to their patients. Staff wellness trickles down into the quality of patient care.”

Among other key findings:

  • HR leaders are investing most in improving the caregiver experience. CNOs prioritize their investments in employee recruitment.
  • HR leaders (64 percent) feel most effective at maintaining staffing levels and employee development. CNOs (54 percent) are most effective at employee engagement and retention.
  • Less than half of respondents reported that they effectively leverage technology, reduce costs (48 percent), and continuously innovate (42 percent).
  • Healthcare leaders have made good progress toward completing workforce plans, with 48 percent reporting that they have implemented a comprehensive plan. Workforce plans were completed for 56% of HR leaders and 43% of CNOs.
  • Healthcare leaders were very confident that they have the skills needed to be successful now and in the future (83 percent), have a culture that breeds trust and transparency (80 percent), and that employees regard their healthcare organization as a great place to work (80 percent).
  • Hiring efficiency and employee engagement are the top areas for strategizing, while recruiting is getting the most investment to develop innovative solutions.
  • When looking at which technologies the leaders want to adopt in the year ahead, onboarding, training and development, and workforce management topped the list.
  • Health leaders in the study shared that experience and clinical excellence are essential when looking for a company to help create and evaluate a workforce strategy, best-in-class client service, and a creative and innovative approach to solving issues.
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“Health leaders must reimagine their approach to their workforce. They must be nimble and innovative and explore new models to help maximize their most valuable asset, their people,” says Daniel J. White, chief commercial officer of Cross Country Healthcare. “They need a trusted and proven partner that can offer a combination of workforce, technology and talent solutions that are customizable in meeting their most urgent and complex people challenges.”

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Renee Hewitt
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