American healthcare concept-flag and stethoscope

7 min read

Chloe Mumford

The Global Healthcare Landscape

In recent months, the World Health Organization (WHO) has projected a shortfall of 15 million health workers by 2030 in low and middle-income countries. The organization asserts that this shortage consists mostly of nurses and midwives, which make up nearly 50% of the global healthcare workforce. Most notably, the WHO had estimated that the world will need an additional 9 million nurses and midwives by the year 2030 to reach Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and well-being.

Clearly, there is a global shortage of nurses and there are many contributing factors to why this is happening. For instance, in South America, it’s becoming more difficult for people to study and qualify as healthcare workers while also trying to support their families. In Cuba, where education is completely free, there is still a shortage of nurses and healthcare-support staff. It is explained that the younger generations understand the burden that being a nurse can carry and are avoiding a career in healthcare, regardless of the monetary reward.

Therefore, fewer people are wanting to work in the healthcare industry from the start. And, with a global recession looming, healthcare providers are in danger of suffering continued staffing shortages and reductions in the quality of patient care.

Thus, the global healthcare landscape is still feeling the effects of COVID-19, with the workers themselves feeling that these roles demand more pay and benefits to compensate for the daily burdens they face. Likewise, healthcare systems are struggling to manage the patient-nurse ratio as a result, which, in turn, is causing poor patient care and the rise of medical mistakes. The global healthcare industry is in danger of collapsing under the weight of these pressures.

Quotation marks

Healthcare institutions including hospitals, clinics, and also healthcare staffing agencies must focus on developing new, effective models to attract employees.

Impact on the U.S. Healthcare System

A healthcare reform is something that has been much discussed and is long overdue. However, there has been no attempt to improve the root causes of its deterioration. Currently, the healthcare system in place is demotivating and encourages doctors to spend 15 minutes or less with each patient to capture the most profits. Healthcare is costly, and as a result, millions of Americans are not getting the care they need.

COVID-19 came as a shock to us all, and there was extreme pressure placed on the healthcare system which resulted in high rates of burnout among nurses that was primarily caused by the shockingly high patient-to-nurse ratio. These working conditions pushed many to reconsider their career choices and led many healthcare professionals to leave their positions during the Great Resignation.

Furthermore, with a recession on the horizon, fewer people have money to spend on their healthcare.  A survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) found that some families are forced to prioritize spending on other necessities rather than on healthcare. As fewer people will be using healthcare services, this shows the impact this could have on healthcare providers, who may need to reconsider budgets and therefore their resourcing needs.

A study conducted by the National Library of Medicine also demonstrated that an increase in the local unemployment rate during a recession correlates with weaker growth in the healthcare sector. Similarly, this shows that healthcare providers will be affected by the recession, and will need to rethink their spending. While there may be an increased need for nurses due to the shortage, healthcare providers might struggle to afford them during the recession.

It’s clear that the U.S. is facing the same healthcare challenges as many other countries. American healthcare providers need to rethink their approach to attracting, hiring, and managing their workers in order to survive the coming recession and provide better care for their patients.

What is the potential outcome if nothing changes?

It’s well understood that the large patient-nurse ratio increases the risk of medical mistakesaround 98,000 people annually die due to medical errors. Sadly, this is the third highest reason for deaths in America. The hospitals themselves are not necessarily responsible for these high ratios, but because of the strain on the current system, the potential for mistakes is higher.

The high nurse-patient ratio has had serious consequences not just for patients but also for nurses themselves, who reported suffering from extremely high stress levels, mental exhaustion, and burnout. A study found that more than half of American physicians experience burnout, a number that still keeps rising.

Certainly, our healthcare systems are in severe need of reform, and if leaders in charge don’t pay attention, patients and healthcare workers will suffer the consequences. It’s to be expected that this will have a devastating impact on patient-to-nurse ratios and subsequent patient care.

Couple of doctors preparing for operation

Fewer people want to get into a healthcare profession, with the pressures of the role scaring them off. And, frankly, they don’t think they’ll be compensated well enough.

What can healthcare providers do?

Healthcare institutions including hospitals, clinics, and also healthcare staffing agencies must focus on developing new, effective models to attract employees.

Strong leadership

Those in healthcare leadership positions must do more to advocate for the well-being of doctors and nurses. In other words, help them do their job well. Good leadership ensures that healthcare workers feel content on the job knowing they are taken care of.

Reward your staff

Healthcare organizations should aim to create a healthy culture where they reward staff for their extraordinary resilience. This will help to build staff relationships and consequently create a better patient experience.

Consider pay cuts

Perhaps controversially, to reduce the patient-to-nurse ratio in a more economically friendly way, it may be helpful to reduce the salary of executive management and instead hire more staff, also giving them more benefits and increased wages to help incentivise them to stay with your organization.

Preventative care

Promote a culture of preventative care and wellbeing advice for the community. Create a strategic plan to reduce the inflow of redundant patients, reduce returning patients, and emphasize telehealth services for non-emergency issues.

In summary

With the drop in international markets and the global talent shortages, American hospitals and healthcare providers are certainly feeling the pressure. Fewer people want to get into a healthcare profession, with the pressures of the role scaring them off. And, frankly, they don’t think they’ll be compensated well enough.

It is also becoming clear that American healthcare institutions will be competing not only with other U.S. organizations for healthcare talent, but with overseas markets as well. Now more than ever, the U.S. healthcare system needs to reform in order to combat the talent shortfall and give American patients the care they deserve. After all, isn’t this what it’s all about?

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