Up to 600 rural hospitals in the U.S. are currently facing closures due to financial, operational, and market pressures, according to a recent report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. Contrary to public opinion, the primary reason behind the negative trend is not Covid-19 related. “These closures were not caused by the pandemic, but by losses on patient services in previous years.”

This report begs the question: How can hospitals, rural and urban alike, maintain a sustainable level of patient services that match community needs? Let’s step back and get a little basic as we unpack this complex issue that impacts not only rural communities but the national infrastructure of healthcare as a whole.

Striking a Balance

Even if a rural hospital is granted capital funds to hire and grow service lines, the supply of qualified clinicians must align with the demand. If this is off-balance, ultimately the hospital will be forced to scale down and reduce access to care for its community.

In the world at large, our economy is shifting due to the effects of The Great Resignation. While many professionals are walking away from careers, others realize they can work non-traditionally – and in many cases, more efficiently – in a way, that better supports their personal lives. The national debate on the topic is centered on skepticism and fears of unpredictable productivity versus a reinvention of work.

“It’s not just about getting another job, or leaving the workforce, it’s about taking control of your work and personal life, and making a big decision – resigning – to accomplish that,” Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist, and professor at Texas A&M University told CNBC Make It. “This is a moment of empowerment for workers, one that will continue.”

So, what does this have to do with the fate of rural hospitals? And healthcare in general? Clinicians need to work differently. They shouldn’t feel as though resignation is the only way to live a good life. Work and happiness are not mutually exclusive. And when we innovate and support clinicians, we are then positioned to consistently offer patient services more efficiently and effectively.

The growing degree of burnout in the healthcare sector is no longer breaking news. However, the problem is spiraling out of control. The U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy recently issued a national advisory declaring burnout in healthcare a national crisis. “The pandemic further exacerbated burnout for health workers, with many risking and sacrificing their own lives in the service of others while responding to a public health crisis,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated in response to the advisory.

When care providers are unhealthy, our global system of care delivery is in jeopardy. First and foremost, we care about the mental health of clinicians. Secondarily, when clinicians are not well, care isn’t delivered as it should be; patients, hospitals, and communities suffer. It’s all connected.

“Health worker burnout affects the public’s ability to get routine preventive and emergency care, and our country’s ability to respond to public health emergencies,” writes the Surgeon General’s office.

Innovative Care and Staffing Models Provide Growth and Stability

So why not take a cue from the public sector and reinvent how we staff hospitals? Care delivery models that are designed to not only support work-life balance but go further to enhance the personal lives of employees will yield more competitive, productive hospitals.

For example, the Surgicalist Model is proven to not only result in high job satisfaction rates for clinicians but at the same time, increase case volumes and downstream revenue for hospitals. When specialty clinical staffing is fortified, hospitals can maintain consistent patient services and, in some areas like trauma and geriatric fracture care, innovative staffing models can allow hospitals to grow or even add service lines.

Surgicalists, anesthesiologists, and other specialists who are sourced and managed by a specialized staffing firm and fully embedded on a long-term basis in a hospital community can transform workplace culture. The model eliminates the burden of staffing from the hospital and allows doctors and advanced practice clinicians the benefit of flexible shifts with real-time off to allocate to family, hobbies, military, volunteer work, or whatever they choose. Hospitals that implement staffing models that benefit the mental health and personal lives of their people will be positioned as employers of choice, even in difficult-to-recruit areas.

If this is a moment of empowerment, the healthcare industry must ensure its workforce, both employees and contracted staff, also benefit from new thinking and attitudes towards the structure and processes of work. We all rely on the interconnected healthcare ecosystem. Improving work-life balance for clinicians will ease some burden on hospitals, rural and otherwise. It’s time to put clinicians first and let go of outdated hospital staffing philosophies for the good of our providers, our nation’s hospitals, and the patients they serve.

To find out how the Surgicalist Model can make a difference for your facility, Connect with us now

Synergy Health Partners