Is It Time to End to Arbitrary Healthcare Staffing?

There is no doubt that our healthcare system is in the midst of a staffing crisis. There are not enough doctors, nurses, and allied professionals to fill all the open positions. But here’s a question: is the problem truly a lack of skilled workers, or is it more of a problem of arbitrary staffing levels?

Take a trip down to your local grocery store and count the number of employees you see working. Do it again a couple of days later. You will notice that numbers vary depending on the day of the week. Why? Because certain days are busier than others.

Nearly every industry in the United States determines staffing levels by need. One of the few exceptions is healthcare. In many states, the staffing of nurses is left up to state law. Bureaucrats have come up with an arbitrary number and that’s that. It doesn’t make sense.

A similar situation exists with doctors. Healthcare administrators and bookkeepers work together to come up with arbitrary numbers that satisfy budgetary constraints. Those numbers are as inflexible as state laws controlling nurse staffing. They do not make much sense either.

Changing Things in New Jersey

The arbitrary setting of healthcare staffing levels may not continue much longer. At least one state, New Jersey, is looking to overturn current law and give power back to those who make the healthcare system work. A bill introduced by Republican assemblywoman Nancy Munoz would allow hospital staffing committees, made up of mostly nurses, to establish staffing levels based on several factors.

Assuming the bill becomes law, committees will look at existing nurse-to-patient ratios. Then they will look at available technology, facility layout, the experience of staff nurses, and other factors that influence quality of care. Only then will they determine optimal staffing levels. They will also have the authority to make adjustments as necessary.

The legislation is not a feel-good attempt to placate unhappy healthcare workers. It is a bill crafted by a licensed nurse who knows what she’s talking about. It is a bill that would take staffing decisions out of the hands of bureaucrats and put them in the hands of those who are best equipped to make them.

Technology Could Help Too

What is happening in New Jersey is just the first step in changing things nationwide. Every state with arbitrary staffing levels in place needs to re-examine its applicable laws. Where hospital administrators and bookkeepers are making arbitrary staffing decisions based on budgetary constraints, new ways of thinking need to be introduced. In all cases, technology could also be a tremendous help in facilitating change.

A good place to start is the vendor management system. A vendor management system for healthcare could, and should, be utilized in concert with staffing solutions from a qualified MSP provider. Vista Staffing and their Vista Select MSP solution are a perfect example.

Technology can be leveraged to better manage staffing levels throughout the year. Combined with qualified decision makers in the healthcare setting, technologies like artificial intelligence and deep learning can streamline the staffing process, improve recruiting efforts, and match the best candidates with the healthcare facilities looking to hire them.

Something Needs to Change

Summarizing this entire discussion is as simple as saying something needs to change. It is clear that the nation’s healthcare professionals are overworked and underappreciated. Perhaps the ongoing personnel shortage is more about arbitrary staffing levels than anything else. The only way to know for sure is to take off the shackles and let the people most qualified to make staffing decisions handle things.