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Managing clinical staff to move from austerity to abundance in health care


How physicians and hospitals can rethink collaboration to build sustainable health care systems.

physician doctor staff teamwork © K.A./peopleimages.com - stock.adobe.com

© K.A./peopleimages.com - stock.adobe.com

In the complex ecosystem of health care, there is often a fundamental misunderstanding between the hospital administration and clinical workforce. At the heart of the issue is a sense of scarcity on both sides: Hospitals strive to cut costs while doctors seek flexibility and fair compensation – especially critical now given soaring burnout rates and the ongoing physician staffing shortage. For some, properly managing clinical staff such as physicians, allied health care providers, nurses, therapists, technologists, and more can be the answer, working to connect these different goals for the greater benefit of patient care.

I have seen hospital workforces emerge from this impasse and build sustainable, growing health care operations with the use of three elements: opening up transparent communication and benchmarking, taking a hard look at staffing levels, and supporting employed and temporary staff as an important part of the overall solution to staffing challenges. Think of it as a big apple pie. Instead of fighting over the crumbs, it’s possible to increase the size of the pie by capturing missed revenue and passing that on to physicians – and also scheduling them appropriately to practice at the top of their license. Essentially, how do you move your own hospital from austerity to abundance? Let’s explore.

Start by joining sides

© CHG Healthcare

Brooke Bowers
© CHG Healthcare

Hospitals, faced with financial pressures and operational constraints, are inclined toward cost-cutting measures. On the flip side, physicians, the lifeblood of health care delivery, aspire for more flexibility in their schedules – especially paramount with burnout, wasted time on administrative work, and staffing shortages – and seek fair compensation for their expertise. However, this misalignment often leads to a complicated relationship that impacts health care delivery.

Health care staffing can play a pivotal role in helping to bridge the gap here. Facilitating communication and understanding between hospitals and doctors, they function as the linchpin holding this delicate system together. Listening to what staff really want and measuring and tracking progress toward those requests transparently have become a best practice with many employers but remain rare in the health care setting. Rebuilding a healthy workforce relationship can start with administrators genuinely inviting clinicians to the table to address the complex challenges collaboratively.

Explore real solutions

Administrators should embrace locum tenens as an instrumental tool for filling staffing gaps, allowing for more time off, and ensuring continuous patient care. Locum tenens can be an integral part of the health care ecosystem – and can help increase hospital revenues, although they have been frequently overlooked on the financial side as only a cost-center in the past. Health care organizations should ensure their staffing solution partners are providing cost transparency and effectively optimizing billing through payer enrollment. These temporary placements are not merely a stopgap measure, but also an essential component in maintaining health care continuity, especially in times of shortages or unforeseen circumstances.

Empower the mediators

Recruiters operate as mediators, offering the hospital’s perspective on the provider’s experience and vice versa. Their primary mandate isn’t merely to push the train forward, but also to navigate it in the right direction. Negotiation, collaboration, and partnership form the cornerstone of their efforts to align the interests of hospitals and physicians. Yet the truth is, there isn’t a rigid line that separates hospitals and doctors. Rather, it’s a dynamic space where negotiation and collaboration hold sway. Health care staffers, with their unique position, wield the power to improve or worsen this line based on their approach. Toxicity in some environments can hinder progress, but with collaboration from all parties, recruiters can play a pivotal role in fostering a healthier, more cohesive health care ecosystem.

Collaboration for better function

The dynamic between hospitals, physicians, and health care staffing isn’t a simple equation, but a multifaceted, complex relationship demanding negotiation, understanding, and cooperation. Health care staffers hold the potential to help address some of the most challenging ongoing workforce issues by facilitating a more collaborative relationship between them. The promise of a health care system that thrives, for providers and patients, relies not on division but on the coming together of different interests for the common goal of better patient care.

Brooke Bowers is president of CompHealth, a division of CHG Healthcare. CHG is a leader in health care staffing and the nation’s largest provider of locum tenens services.

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