San Antonio's Baptist Health Highlights a Growing Staffing Issue in Healthcare
Baptist Health Systems located in San Antonia is hiring. Their Northern Baptists Hospital in San Antonio is advertising for ICU/PCU RN’s, Patient Care Associates, Lab Assistants, and more. Nothing unusual here, except for the fact that Baptist Health is offering a $20K sign-on bonus as an incentive to attract staff.
This isn’t the first time Baptist Health System has offered a sign-on incentive. A staff hiring event was held last month for both their North Central Baptist Hospital and St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital, both San Antonio based, at a similar event. This month's event was scheduled for the 11th of May, but if you're San Antonio based and you missed it, you can still reach out to the hospital via social media or connect with Sherwin Guevarra at Sherwin.Guevarra@tenethealth.com
Baptist Health System is facing a common problem that’s emerged post-pandemic and isn't restricted to areas like San Antonio. Across America, the demand to fill medical posts have that have been lost to the pandemic, either through poor wages, illness, death, or simple weariness, is growing.
It's a problem that's become increasingly challenging. We spoke to the CEO of MacArthur Medical Center in Irving, Texas, Obgyn Dr. Jeff Livingston. During the course of the pandemic, their practice lost doctors, nurses, and related professional and administrative staff. They are still struggling to replace these and being short-staffed has knock-on effects for the doctors and nurses left to carry the load. Still recovering from the drain of a pandemic that's yet to pass, exhausted providers are having to pull longer shifts, covering for the gaps they've been unable to fill.
“We lost 3 doctors who did not want to take the temporary pay cut caused by the cash flow crisis during the pandemic. We lost another doctor and a midwife who decided they wanted to change careers. We lost about 10% of our medical assistants and office staff who needed to go home to take care of kids who were not in school during the pandemic,” said Dr Livingston
Trying to replace these staff members has been challenging and while they've managed to replace most of their administrative staff, they still have gaps, most noticeably, doctors. To resolve the problem, like many medical facilities, they turned to agencies. But that hasn't always worked and they have been forced to look to new avenues, in particular social media and professional networking platforms like Linkedin, where they run paid advertising campaigns in an attempt to recruit.
Dr. Livingston offers the following.
“We are using recruiters for doctors. Networking works better. For medical assistants and office staff, we use Facebook ads and Linkedin ads. Networking works more effectively on these platforms too, but if you don't have a well-established social media presence, this isn't an option.”
This problem isn't localized to Texas either. Beyond its borders, hospitals and practices across America are facing a skills shortage. In the Chicago area, there are also significant staffing shortages in many hospitals, according to Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa, a practicing critical care specialist in the greater Chicago region.
“Many nurses, respiratory therapists, and patient care technicians have left,” says Dr Hassaballa. “Some have left because they can earn much higher salaries working contract jobs across the country. Others are wanting to pause and start families. And a substantial number have left the bedside for good.“
This mass exodus has caused a palpable strain on the remaining staff, and it can definitely affect the care a hospital can deliver.
“It doesn’t matter if there is an empty bed,” says Dr. Hassaballa. “If there is no nurse to staff said bed, the patient has to wait in the hospital emergency department, sometimes for hours or even days. This is never a good thing.”
Recruiting their replacements takes time, and it may be very hard to find good, experienced staff. And right now, there are not many in the market to look for a job. Dr. Hassaballa is very concerned about what this portends for the future.
How will healthcare address these issues?
These are vastly different practices that have been affected similarly, but their ability to respond to staffing shortages varies dramatically. Baptist Health is in a unique position, not enjoyed by many other hospitals on the heels of the pandemic. Most are still struggling to recover financially and offering cash sign-on bonuses just isn't an option for them.
Dr. Hassaballa’s example is a perfect one. Cash strapped and limited in their avenues of recruitment to more traditional systems, their hospitals face an uphill battle recruiting and replacing staff. Salaries can not be incentivized or raised if budgets don't allow for it. The consequences are felt by patients, as staff shortages affect the quality and speed of care delivery.
On the heels of a pandemic which many argue is far from over, now more than ever, staffing levels in healthcare facilities across America really matter. The profits enjoyed by pharmaceutical companies stand in stark contrast to those made by the providers and institutions who ensure our health and administer and prescribe these drugs. The time for reassessing healthcare’s financial models is upon us.
This American Association of College of Nurses highlights the problem of staff shortages, which existed prior to the pandemic, and points to the impacts of nursing shortages in an insightful article you can access here.