how the holiday season 2020 is affecting health care staffing

How the Holiday Season 2020 is Affecting Staffing Shortages

For many facilities, keeping the floor adequately staffed without burning out your employees while simultaneously balancing time-off requests is already a delicate act during normal times. However, the situation has only gotten tougher to manage during the pandemic, and with the holiday season coming up, it’s likely to get worse.

Here are the many ways that the pandemic and holidays are affecting staffing shortages, so you know what to plan for and how you might be able to find a way to help.

Normal Holiday Scheduling Concerns

During the normal holiday season, you likely see several regular trends happen depending on your facility and specialty. 

In terms of staff, there are normally a few employees who are more than willing to work every shift possible, including the holidays, in order to get holiday pay. However, in general, time-off requests for the holidays themselves tend to stack up quickly as people plan for trips to visit family or time off to celebrate. 

These time-off requests can limit your pool of staff that you can schedule from. In some specialties, the holidays also mean a decline in patients, as many stay home and avoid seeking out care in order to enjoy their time with their families and friends. 

As a result, patient census might be generally lower during this season, and you might be able to make it through with minimum staff during a normal year barring a severe flu or respiratory disease outbreak in your community.

Scheduling Concerns in the Pandemic

However, the 2020 holiday season is not a typical year. On top of the normal seasonal concerns like time-off requests and flu, COVID-19 has pushed our health care system to the limits.

Most of our patients and many of our staff are considered high risk for COVID-19, and we want to protect them and our communities while also making sure our patients are provided the best care possible. 

But as the pandemic draws on and enters both flu and holiday season, many professionals have found themselves exhausted, sick, or burned out, leaving facilities scrambling to try to maintain patient-to-staff ratios. 

However, with a staffing shortage that pre-dates the pandemic and is only being made worse by increased patient demand and quarantine policies, many facilities are finding staffing shortages to be even more severe.

What’s Being Done

As a result of the staffing shortages, health care systems, and state legislatures have been scrambling to find ways to relieve the pressure on the system.

Nursing boards in many states have temporarily changed some regulations, fast-tracking students through the licensing process or changing the process for how nurses can transfer into their state or renew. Some state legislatures have opted to waive many of the normal rules that govern how health care professionals are licensed to practice. 

In North Dakota, the governor even went so far as to announce that health care professionals who were positive COVID-19 should continue working in COVID-19 units to keep up with the growing demand for frontline staff. 

However, for many facilities, they’ve found the most success in turning to staffing agencies to fill temporary scheduling concerns. 

Whether it’s to handle a sudden outbreak and need to quarantine a bunch of permanent staff at once or as an effort to keep up with higher-than-normal patient demand, using staffing agencies to find per diem and contract staff has many benefits. Primarily, it helps bypass the lengthy hiring and orientation process to fill more immediate and temporary needs, getting you the staff you need to cover patient demand quickly.

Staffing issues are a pain even when there isn’t a pandemic during the holidays. If you find yourself struggling to deal with shortages, Clipboard Health can help you find staff to fill the holes in your holiday schedules to get you through the chaotic 2020 season.