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September 22, 2022

8 ways health leaders can strengthen their workforces, according to AHA

Daily Briefing

    The American Hospital Association (AHA) recently released Strengthening the Health Care Workforce, a digital toolkit aimed at helping health care leaders navigate workforce challenges with strategies and resources.

    8 areas CEOs need to address to strengthen their health care workforce

    The report contains three sections and a total of eight chapters on how health care leaders can strengthen their workforces. AHA said it does not intend for the toolkit to be all-inclusive, but instead it should serve as a companion to other resources AHA has released addressing the long-term sustainability of the health care workforce.

    Each section contains key considerations and questions to drive action, recommendations for team member discussions, and three top takeaways for CEOs and health care leaders.

    1. Addressing well-being

    AHA notes that, while burnout is not a new phenomenon, the Covid-19 pandemic has "amplified the need for support and efforts to improve well-being, destigmatize mental health, and address overall wellness."

    AHA recommends that health care leaders:

    • Identify an accountable leader to manage and measure well-being efforts
    • Designate resources to address well-being among the workforce
    • Model actions that your team is implementing and talk about the importance of well-being

    2. Supporting behavioral health

    Not only did health care workers risk their physical health in treating Covid-19 patients, but the crisis has also taken a toll on their mental health, AHA reports. One study found that 93% of health care workers reported stress and 86% reported anxiety.

    As a result, AHA recommends that health care leaders:

    • Identify and promote ways the workforce can access behavioral health services
    • Remove the stigma associated with behavioral health treatment
    • Build and sustain a culture of psychological safety, including potentially providing training in mental health awareness

    3. Workplace violence prevention

    According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, workers in the health care and social services fields experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence. The trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic has "heightened the need to create a safer workplace, both physically and psychologically, and a more resilient workforce," the report says.

    AHA recommends that health care leaders:

    • Create a culture of safety
    • Focus on preventing workplace violence through vulnerability assessments, support for violence prevention programs, prioritization of education and training, and encouraging reporting
    • Support workers experiencing trauma due to violence

    4. Data and analytics

    Data has the ability to identify trends, measure engagement, and inform leaders on where to allocate resources, the report says. Using data and analytics can help health care leaders address burnout at a system-wide level.

    AHA recommends that health care leaders:

    • Identify the issues your organization's workforce is experiencing
    • Appoint an executive to lead a centralized, coordinated, and ongoing data collection and reporting effort
    • Allocate resources to implement a data strategy

    5. Technological supports

    Technology has played a critical role in population health management, clinical integration, and convenience for patients, but it can also play a pivotal role in supporting the health care workforce, the report says.

    AHA recommends that health care leaders:

    • Embrace technology as a way to support the workforce
    • Address cultural shifts associated with technology with change-management strategies
    • Utilize partnerships to help support your organization's ability to implement solutions effectively and efficiently

    6. Recruitment and retention strategies

    Recruitment and retention problems existed before the pandemic but have now been exacerbated by it and the "great resignation," the report says.

    AHA recommends that health care leaders:

    • Acknowledge the recruitment landscape has changed and one-size-fits-all approaches no longer work
    • Acknowledge that health care workers are worn out and that addressing well-being and supporting flexibility and family life are important
    • Develop a well culture in which team members feel valued

    7. Diversity and inclusion

    Having a diverse workforce can positively impact patients, as the workforce "understands that the cultures, issues, and needs of local patient populations can provide deeper insight that results in better decision-making about how to serve those communities," the report says.

    AHA recommends that health care leaders:

    • Build a diverse and inclusive environment, ensuring leadership is representative of the patients and communities they serve
    • Increase diversity and inclusion within the workforce
    • Make leaders effective at advancing equity accountable for implementing goals and ensuring others within the organization are similarly accountable

    8. Creative staffing models

    The Covid-19 pandemic has "changed the face of the health care workforce," the reports says, straining hospitals, taxing caregiver well-being, and leading many to leave the health care field altogether. As a result, many hospitals are facing staff shortages.

    AHA recommends that health care leaders:

    • Analyze and understand the creative staffing models implemented during the pandemic
    • Understand how technology can help support new staffing models
    • Ensure the full team, including patients and families, are involved in evaluating care model shifts

    (Fox, Healthcare IT News, 9/21; Strengthening the Health Care Workforce report, accessed 9/22)

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