Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) has officially transitioned to OpusVi to highlight its sole mission of eliminating the healthcare staffing shortage crisis. This goes beyond a rebrand - it's addressing the core challenge in healthcare: the demand for care far exceeds the supply of skilled healthcare workers to properly support the population.
Author: Andrew Malley, Chief Executive Officer, OpusVi (formerly Dignity Health Global Education)
Healthcare’s Staffing Crisis
Among the vast - and growing - challenges impacting the U.S. healthcare industry, staffing shortages present the most urgent crisis to not only healthcare leaders but patient care overall.
Resignations among healthcare workers have increased steadily from about 400,000 per month in 2020 to nearly 600,000 per month in May 2023. Also, though there is a wide array of opportunities for healthcare education in the U.S., attrition and turnover rates for first- and second-year nurses are on the rise. With more healthcare workers expected to exit the workforce over the next several years, these staffing shortages will only worsen unless organizations intervene.
Exacerbating the importance of this exodus, the need for healthcare – and healthcare workers – has only increased. According to a recent survey from McKinsey and Company, the U.S. could experience a deficit of 200,000 to 450,000 registered nurses available for direct patient care by 2025.
From what I see, the educational system is not delivering an output of skilled healthcare workers at the level necessary to keep up. We need to provide the necessary training, support and resources to give caregivers the competence and confidence to be successful and stay in their roles.
Due to staffing gaps, many young healthcare workers are being pushed into roles for which they are inadequately prepared. Practical skills like managing budgets, performance and continuous improvement plans are all essential to improve healthcare outcomes across the industry. However, for many in the newest wave of healthcare leaders, these are skills they simply have not had the time to hone. There is also a growing number of seasoned healthcare workers exiting the workforce, forcing unprepared workers to take on leadership roles without adequate training through traditional education. This lapse in passed-down knowledge from one generation to the next is creating another skills gap that could adversely impact patient outcomes.
The importance of supporting the workforce
How can we develop an impactful treatment plan to nurse the healthcare workforce back to health?
Equitable, scalable and accessible education must be the solution. High-quality and application-based learning provides critical, timely and relevant skills for healthcare workers not only as they enter the workforce but also as they continue throughout their careers.
In an industry marked by rising turnover rates, recruitment efforts must extend beyond simply filling vacant roles. Prioritizing job satisfaction during the recruitment process and throughout the journey of a health worker's career may present challenges. Still, the investment yields higher retention rates, significant cost savings for organizations in recruitment and hiring efforts and in the end, allows the organization to achieve the goal of continuity when it comes to patient care. Employers must focus on creating compelling reasons for employees to commit for the long term, including elements such as:
- Supportive work environments and a clear, professional growth pathway
More often than not, those who want to make an impact in the healthcare space don’t have the right tools or pathway customized to their goals in order to do so. Whether it’s due to time constraints, location or financial resources. Educational partnerships, scholarships and tuition reimbursement offerings from organizations are all ways to encourage entry into the demanding healthcare workforce that can provide clear growth pathways that signal true support for individual career advancement.
- Competitive salary and comprehensive benefits packages
While one of the most effective ways to show support for your team is increasing salary, health leaders also have additional avenues like bonuses, additional time off and comprehensive benefits as options for signaling support. For example, with a majority female workforce, things like meaningful maternity leave are imperative. Flexibility in work hours is also a significant attraction for healthcare workers, such as having the ability to choose from a “pool” of hours to best meet their scheduling demands.
- Scholarships and tuition reimbursement to support career journeys
Employer-supported upskilling and higher education funding remains very low. Meaning less, low-quality education should be done away with. Predatory for-profit schools should not be working with not-for-profit, mission-driven systems. Their outcomes, objectives and results do not align with one another and recent lawsuits and fines given to some of the biggest of these schools highlight this all too clearly. Positive, and potentially life-changing outcomes, need to be highlighted, encouraged and prioritized to support career progression by utilizing alternative in-demand education offerings that have been introduced into the category today.
- Schedule and workplace flexibility by strengthening the clinical workforce pyramid across the spectrum
Health leaders need to think critically about their scheduling infrastructures. For example, where do we need nurses, where do we need CNAs and where do we need personal care assistants? By strategically hiring and training CNAs, Medical Assistants and Personal Care Assistants, the healthcare system can establish a stable and robust pyramid structure that will support the whole staff. This support allows healthcare workers to focus on their core responsibilities, leading to higher job satisfaction, retention rates and staffing pipelines for the future.
- Ongoing mental health support, training opportunities and simple appreciation
Training programs must have support, coaching and mentorship to build confidence and competence, which are key components in the success of young staff in particular. Many healthcare organizations are taking steps to address burnout by implementing more mental health resources, creating more reasonable schedules, insisting on simplified electronic health records (EHR) processes, providing regular EHR training, increasing pay, reimbursing tuition for education and creating a more positive culture.
The moment is NOW to triage the crisis before it becomes even bigger
According to the 2022 NSI National Healthcare Retention Report, there is a 17% registered nurse (RN) vacancy rate and the turnover rate for first-year nurses is 31.7%. The turnover cost for a single staff RN has been increasing each year — with an average of $52,250 in 2022, compared to $46,100 in 2021.
Right now, we’re at a critical time when we must endeavor to shape the future of the healthcare industry and its next generation of leaders. If we invest in providing nurses and other healthcare workers with proper training, we will bring more skilled clinicians into the workforce, address staffing shortages, solve costly hiring and retention problems and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
This crisis facing the healthcare workforce is precisely why my team recently announced our rebrand transitioning from Dignity Health Global Education to OpusVi (Latin for “Workforce”). This new brand highlights our singular focus: the workforce.
At OpusVi, we’re on a mission to develop transformative workforce solutions to expand and elevate the care workforce by providing quality access at scale with our healthcare partners. Our workforce development programs are specifically designed to enable healthcare systems and organizations to expand and elevate the health workforce and save money in the long run.
Backed by CommonSpirit Health, Premier, Inc. and Providence, our tech-driven approach to our workforce development solutions is created for healthcare, by healthcare. Leveraging proven instructional design and trusted educational partnerships, these transformative workforce solutions are built to help drive measurable success and affect change at scale.
As an example, in partnership with CommonSpirit Health, OpusVi developed a new Nurse Residency and Preceptorship program earlier this year with these goals in mind. The right training, offered through programs like this, not only equips nurses with degrees and certificates from universities and continuing education credits from accredited, highly-ranked institutions – where medical workers can learn life-saving skills, it also gives patients access to quality care. Practical and clinical training arms staff with the experience and confidence they need to be successful and comfortable in their roles – helping to guard against attrition.
There is no debate: patients deserve the best quality of care. It’s up to the healthcare industry to help them get it – and I believe increasing the number of skilled healthcare workers is the most critical, scalable and impactful place to start.