Healthcare Workforce Shortage Tools & Guidance

As the Pandemic continues to unfold, more hospitals and health facilities are enduring severe workforce shortages. Older nurses are retiring, and younger nurses are leaving their positions for various reasons, including the COVID-19 Pandemic. The effect of these worker shortages is being seen across the United States, with nurses calling Safe Harbor in healthcare facilities heavily affected by the uptick in COVID-19 cases. The purpose of this update is to provide a collection of resources issued by the Rural Health Information Hub (RHI Hub), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Hospital Association (AHA).

Rural Health Information Hub (RHI Hub)

The RHI Hub has issued guidance on strategies that rural healthcare facilities can use to meet their workforce needs. The article addresses which state-level policies and programs can help address the workforce shortages in rural areas. In addition, there are strategies for how rural healthcare facilities and schools can help meet these workforce needs and how foreign medical graduates can help fill rural physician workforce gaps. Finally, at the end of the website page, there is more information on finding federal policies and programs that can help supply rural health professionals.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The most recent update to the Staff Shortages page of the CDC website was uploaded on March 10, 2021. The write-up you are reading will be updated as the CDC releases new information.

As of March 10, 2021, the CDC added contingency and crisis capacity strategies for addressing healthcare workforce shortages to their website. These strategies are meant to be assessed and implemented SEQUENTIALLY. Healthcare facilities must understand their staffing needs and the minimum staff needed to provide an efficient and safe work environment and safe patient care. The guidance issued on the CDC website includes:

  • Contingency Capacity Strategies to Mitigate Staffing Shortages
    • Adjusting employee schedules, hiring healthcare professionals, and rotating them to different positions when needed
    • Developing regional plans to determine designated healthcare facilities & alternate care sites with adequate staffing to care for COVID-9 infected patients
    • Allowing asymptomatic healthcare professionals (who have had higher-risk exposure to COVID-19 but are not known to be infected) to change or shorten their work restrictions
  • Crisis Capacity Strategies to Mitigate Staffing Shortages
    • Implementing regional plans created in the Contingency Capacity Strategy phase (stated above)
    • Allowing asymptomatic healthcare professionals who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (and who have had a higher-risk exposure to COVID-19) to continue to work onsite throughout their post-exposure period (more information listed on the website)
    • As a last resort, if there are still severe workforce shortages, the CDC says to consider allowing healthcare professionals with suspected OR confirmed COVID-19 infection who are well enough (and willing) to work but have met all Return-to-Work Criteria.

American Hospital Association (AHA)

The American Hospital Association (AHA) published a Fact Sheet on May 26, 2021, addressing healthcare personnel shortages and urging policy change to ensure hospitals can access more healthcare professionals.