Clinician labor constraints are forcing hospitals to adapt. Some hospital leaders are finding creative ways to attract and retain the best and brightest.

How do you think hospitals will adapt as a result of the unprecedented staffing disruptions we are currently facing? 

At Synergy Health Partners, we have been receiving an unprecedented number of inbound calls from hospitals looking for long-term solutions to their surgical and anesthesia staffing challenges. Covid accelerated clinician burnout, though it was building for some time before the pandemic as reimbursements continue to decline while case volumes and administrative hassles are on the rise.

While locums serve a critical role in filling short-term gaps, they can be expensive over time. And by definition, locums are traveling clinicians who are not solely dedicated to the facilities they serve. Most hospitals prefer more permanent staffing solutions.

There are two key ways hospitals can rise to the challenge; with the great resignation at hand, both are essential.

Fair and competitive monetary compensation is one. If dollars are spent wisely on attracting and retaining the right team, the bottom-line benefits through increased staff satisfaction and decreased patient outmigration.

Positive workplace culture is another. Sustainable employee engagement yields loyal, high-performing clinical teams. To stay competitive as a hospital employer of choice, adjustments may be needed to adapt to evolving clinician expectations. A strong hospital culture is one where clinicians are empowered to lead. Their challenges are heard and acted on. The goal is to ensure a clinical team is vested in the hospital community as engaged leaders. I realize this is easier said than done, which is how partners can help.

How do hospital decision-makers course-correct with staffing?

Hospitals that deliver lifestyle-supportive career paths and put the needs of clinicians first will thrive. Clinicians require a healthy work-life balance to deliver the best care possible to patients. Historically, hospital administrators are often referred to Synergy Health Partners in moments of desperation. Nobody calls us for surgical and anesthesia staffing help or emergency department management solutions because everything is working perfectly.

Staffing shortages drain energy and resources away from hospital administrators, making it difficult to focus on their two biggest concerns: improving patient safety and maintaining hospital solvency. Our custom programs are designed in partnership with local or system-wide hospitals as long-term solutions to provide relief from day-to-day burdens caused by staffing and oversight. We source, vet and retain surgical and anesthesia teams. Synergy Health Partners can even manage entire emergency departments. If there’s a problem, it can generally be solved with one phone call to our physician leaders.

Recently we have noticed forward-thinking administrators calling us before staffing irregularities become dire, sometimes proactively asking their in-house surgeons to continue to serve their hospital as part of the Synergy Health Partners team. That’s how we know we’re on to something meaningful and beneficial to hospitals and clinicians alike.

What is a surgicalist?

The Surgicalist Model is an example of how Synergy Health Partners solves hospital staffing challenges. A surgicalist is a surgeon whose sole focus is to take emergency on-call at a dedicated facility, providing much-needed relief for the local team of surgeons.

Many hospitals find it difficult to staff certain specialties — a hand or shoulder surgeon for example — creating gaps in coverage. This can be particularly difficult for Level II trauma centers that need round-the-clock coverage, or urban acute care centers with high volumes, or rural hospitals that may have trouble recruiting full-time surgical specialists in remote parts of the country. The surgicalist model solves these challenges by taking the call coverage off the local surgical group, freeing them up to focus on elective cases. The model was also designed to allow providers to take time off to spend with their families. We’ve heard from many surgicalists who thank us for restoring their personal lives. One climbed Mount Everest and another volunteers for a mission hospital in Honduras.

What opportunities do you see for hospitals in the future?

We believe the hospitals that will thrive will embrace three fundamental tenets: clinician-first culture; technology that improves patient outcomes, and efficiencies; and partnerships that provide frameworks and support to make it all possible.

The right partnerships are essential to achieving the long-term goals of the hospital, specifically remaining financially viable in order to provide excellent care to satisfied patients in their communities.

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Synergy Health Partners