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Before the pandemic, healthcare staffing shortages were no secret, and because of the devastating effects of COVID-19, further strain has been put on the US healthcare system.

After a difficult period, what does the rest of the year hold for the healthcare staffing sector? Will it get better, and what are the challenges that lie ahead?

In this article, we are exploring some of these challenges.

A continued shortage of nursing staff

In the State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020 published by The World Health Organization, it was suggested that an additional 6 million nurses would be required to resume nursing standards pre-pandemic. That is a lot of nurses; nurses the US do not have.

The same report also shone a light on future staff replenishment challenge for nursing to overcome. Just over 16% of nurses worldwide are set to retire within the next ten years, which a lot. But that figure is substantially higher in America at 24%. And although they can not stop nurses from retiring, there is hope on the horizon.

According to a policy brief [PDF], more than 70% of National Nurses Associations (NNAs) report that their countries are committed to increasing the number of nursing students. But this would still create a three-to-four-year gap while they study, and healthcare providers need nurses now.

There is an opportunity for providers to listen and deliver on nursing requirements, implement schedule flexibility and promote career development to help keep current nurses motivated to continue delivering excellent patient care.

The state of mental health

It is ok not to be ok — a mantra we have all become very familiar with over the past 18 months. And although it is important we recognize that, recognizing it is not going to be enough.

Healthcare providers need to take a closer look at factors influencing negative mental health to be able to have a chance at rebalancing the scales and taking care of those in need.

And what are those factors influencing mental health? Of course, COVID-19 is the biggest immediate contributor to recent mental health struggles, but it’s the long-term effects as a result of COVID-19 that providers must take into account.

Healthcare staff are suffering from exertion and mental health issues due to COVID-19, a problem that will not simply disappear when the vaccines are fully distributed. A review published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health said mental health issues suffered by healthcare workers was an “underrecognized and unaddressed area”.

The review recommends regular screening for this medical personnel who are involved in treating those with COVID-19. And that the screening “should be done for evaluation stress, depression and anxiety.”

Providers can expect a challenging few months trying to support staff while continuing to deliver critical patient care.

Demand for psychological services is increasing

A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) found almost three-quarters of psychologists treating anxiety disorders saw an increase in demand for treatment at the beginning of the pandemic. The same survey found that 60% of psychologists who treat depression also saw an increase.

So mental health is impacting everyone — not just those working in the healthcare system. But the fact it is affecting everyone means there is higher demand and, therefore, more strain on these psychological service providers.

Psychological care providers are struggling to keep up with demand, which means patients won’t be able to seek the support they require.

Hiring and retaining healthcare staff

We have already touched on the shortage of nurses, but it seems many practices are struggling to recruit staff, period. In a study conducted by the Larry A. Green Center and the Primary Care Collaborative, it came to light that 35% of physicians say hiring new staff is a big obstacle for their practice post-COVID.

To overcome these challenges, suggestions included implementing flexible hours and increased vacation time, amongst others. It has been recognized that the millennial generation taking over from the baby boomer generation has a particular focus on a balanced work and personal life, so recruitment strategies should reflect this.

To appeal to new generations and ultimately retain good staff members, providers need to consider what is important to the generation they are recruiting from.

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Increased demand for allied healthcare

Because of COVID, “elective” surgeries were put on the back burner, delays of which have already caused backlogs stretching from months to years for many patients. And the long-term effects of these delays will not yet be understood for perhaps many more years to come.

According to a study, 35–45% of allied healthcare professionals have indicated that their medical practices were temporarily closed during COVID-19. The pandemic affected every allied healthcare professional in some capacity, for example, orthopedic practices had to reduce staff hours, close offices, and reduce salaries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But now that vaccines are being distributed (with almost 47% of the United States citizens fully vaccinated, as of June 28), patients are growing in confidence and are starting to require elective surgeries and allied healthcare services once again.

According to an article published by Springer, “Provided a 20% increase in baseline surgical volume is possible, it would take nearly a year (median of 45 weeks) to clear the surgical case backlog.”

This means only one thing; increased strain and demand on these allied healthcare services.

Workplace strikes

The stress and pressure the healthcare sector has been under is unfathomable, and it is not getting better anytime soon. Between January and April 2021, there were four labor strikes by healthcare workers in the US. They are striking over concerns about their working conditions, staffing, patient care and employee retention.

If workplace strikes continue throughout the year, providers will have to continue dealing with staffing replacements and adjusting shift timing at short notice — not only as a direct result of these strikes but due to illness (both COVID-19 and mental health) also.

It is clear challenges will keep coming throughout 2021 as new problems arise.

How IMS People Possible supports staffing agencies

For 15 years, we’ve worked with healthcare providers to source the best candidates.

Our experience in this sector means we have built a far-reaching and reliable network, so sourcing and screening high-quality candidates is what we do best.

Our customized recruitment services can help you plug these critical healthcare staffing shortages, which means you can quickly respond to fluctuations in client demand. With our help and support, you can take on exciting new opportunities without the need to hire new staff internally.

With our outsourcing support, you can confidently grow your staffing agency. What can we help you with? Our team of experts can help you with CV sourcing, headhunting, job postings, database regeneration, background/reference checking, lead generation and more. IMS People Possible has got your outsourced recruiting needs covered.

Why outsource your recruitment?

  • It improves company
  • Outsourcing helps you save 50% cost as compared to doing the same functions
  • Allows you to focus on key strategic goals
  • It helps you scale your staffing agency quickly

When working with IMS People Possible, you are given access to a dedicated staffing team, so communication is consistent and familiar.

Talk to our team today. Email us on

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