Strategies to Mitigate the Staff Shortage in Healthcare

What is driving the recent staff shortage in healthcare, and how can leaders retain and attract top clinicians?

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant changes in workforce supply and demand across the world, especially in healthcare. According to the latest reports, resignations of clinical staff have reached unprecedented levels in the past year, and the staff shortages in healthcare are only expected to worsen. It’s clear that action is needed to retain and attract staff. What exactly is driving this phenomenon, and how can you, as a leader, mitigate the staff shortage?

Burnout and Mental Health Impact on Healthcare

The rise of clinician burnout and the lack of sufficient mental health support at work is a leading cause of the staff shortage we are now experiencing. Healthcare professionals are faced with significant pressure at work and many have reached their breaking point, leaving the profession that once brought them joy and fulfillment. This mass resignation of medical workers is not a failing on their part or a lack of resilience but rather caused by a broken system leading to burnout and workplace distress.

Not only is distress impacting retention rates, but also the number of new workers joining the profession. According to a recent report from the World Health Organization, if no action is taken we will see a worldwide shortage of 4.6 million nurses by 2030.

Healthcare Staff Need to be Valued

If you, like others, are wondering how to recruit and retain healthcare staff in the current climate, there’s one thing that stands out: People want to be valued and appreciated in the workplace. One of the most effective ways you can make your teams feel appreciated is through consistent and transparent communication. Communicating and engaging with people in an open and honest culture is a major step in transforming how the workplace operates. Promoting innovation, celebrating staff achievements, and simply acknowledging people’s hard work all help make an organization a place where people want to work in.



A negative working environment is one of the leading causes of stress among staff.  According to Nurses USA, “the healthcare workplace environment has a deep impact on staff experience, including satisfaction, productivity, and institutional loyalty.” One way to maximize organizational culture is to develop a shared set of values that everyone signs up to and genuinely practices. Working collaboratively and asking your staff for input regarding value development can help to create an atmosphere of inclusion and togetherness. Having a set understanding of what your institution believes in and work toward is also a great way to attract recruits when you are tackling the staff shortage in healthcare.

Dr. Keith Frey, Chief Medical Officer of CommonSpirit Health, recently launched a program to improve mental health among their thousands of physicians. To do this, his team of physician leaders determined that the key to improving staff well-being is creating a culture that is attentive to the clinician experience. Among other initiatives, they implemented a three-domain model based on the Stanford WellMD model, a framework created by Dr. Tait Shanafelt. CommonSpirit’s modified version places culture at the base to reflect the organization’s specific values and to signify the importance of a healthy workplace culture in supporting staff wellness, upon which everything else is built. “A culture of wellness and professional fulfillment is the sustaining lifeforce that will keep well-being going over the next generation of physicians,” said Dr. Frey.


Focus on STAFF Well-being

As leaders in healthcare, we have a responsibility to protect and support the mental health and well-being of our medical staff. You can focus on the well-being of your staff in the workplace by offering access to mental health resources including peer support programs, anonymous counseling services, and more. Along with helpful resources, giving your professionals a way to provide feedback directly to the organization about what could be improved is a vital step in supporting staff.

In addition to promoting the mental health of your teams and subsequently improving their lives and their ability to care for patients, implementing well-being programming can also help attract top talent. People want to work for institutions that value and support their teams. Developing effective wellness support systems can give your organization a positive reputation and draw the attention of those just joining the field.

By thinking creatively about your organization and the workforce, you can develop a strategy that will not only attract the best recruits, but you’ll be able to keep them for longer too. Become a Champion for more workplace wellness insights today.

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This policy was last updated in August 2021.