Health systems across the country are still experiencing significant effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ongoing patient surges coupled with staff burnout and turnover are adding to the long-existing healthcare staffing crisis.

Just like during the height of the pandemic, every available staffing resource is incredibly valuable. Yet we’ve found that many health systems are inadvertently underutilizing some of their own internal resources. Where are these much-needed staffing resources hiding? It turns out they are in plain sight, but a lack of data transparency leaves them unseen and unused. Here are some tips to find and optimize those valuable hours.


Find underutilized resources on your team

Underutilization happens when staff don’t work up to their committed or approved hours. For example, a per-diem nurse who was hired and approved to work 30 hours each week only works 24, leaving 6 available hours unused. When this happens frequently, it adds up to a significant number of shifts that will either remain short-staffed or need to be filled with more costly staff.

Another less obvious source of additional cost-effective staffing capacity can come from staff who have a gap between their committed hours and when they reach overtime. For example, an employee who is committed to 30 hours per week might be willing to work an extra shift when there are critical staffing gaps.


Regain valuable hours, tally up the benefits

Recovering staffing resources by ensuring employees work up to their committed/approved hours delivers multiple benefits to the entire organization:

  • Improve staff satisfaction – With more staffing resources available to fill open shifts, the entire team carries a lighter staffing burden. In these times of frequent short-staffing, that can help improve the well-being of the entire team. In addition, providing previously underutilized staff with the hours they committed to can also be a satisfier for them as it enables them to reach their own financial goals.
  • Contain labor costs – By fully leveraging non-premium labor options, your organization can reduce overtime, incentive pay, and the use of travelers/agency staff.
  • Keep beds open – Using every available staffing resource helps minimize the need to move or divert patients.


Ensure staff work up to their commitment

Improving staff utilization is much easier with the right technology. First, look for the analytics that can pinpoint the unused staffing resources. Second, make sure it’s easy to communicate with those staff as you match them with open shifts. Third, use a census forecast to plan for the best deployment of available staff. Think in terms of both when and where the resources can have the most impact. When you look across future shifts and other units, you can use available staff to fill the most critical schedule gaps.

As your health system continues to adapt to staff shortages, increased patient care needs, and ongoing budget constraints, finding these pockets of underutilized staff can help you balance staffing plans and keep costs contained. For more strategies to deal with short-staffing, check out our eBook, “Seven Strategies for Mitigating Understaffing with Predictive Analytics.”