COVID Staffing Squeeze: What To Do When You’re In A Pinch

By Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC

Healthcare workers have shouldered the worst of the COVID-19 burden. And unsurprisingly, many of them have reached their breaking points. A survey completed by Morning Consult found that 40% (!) of healthcare workers surveyed have either quit their jobs or been laid off since February 2020. Of the remaining 60%, 12% have consider changing jobs within the healthcare field, while 19% have considered leaving healthcare altogether.

There is a constellation of reasons for this, but you can boil them all down to a shared sentiment—healthcare workers are burned out. As such, hiring has become nearly impossible for many facilities. If you are in the staffing squeeze with nowhere to turn, consider these strategies to alleviate the pressure.

Talk openly about burnout and acknowledge your team’s struggles. Don’t minimalize feelings of stress and exhaustion by ignoring them. Instead, schedule group or private meetings with your team to have an “airing of grievances.” What struggles are they dealing with? Are they feeling overwhelmed? What can the management team do to support them? Follow through with their requests and check back frequently. Doing something as simple as listening and extending an offer to help will build trust and respect among your team.

Increase the compensation. Supply and demand are certainly driving pay rates. Be as generous as you can when making an employment offer. Dietitians are some of the lowest paid members on the healthcare team. Couple that with heavier workloads and sicker patients, and you have a recipe for burnout. Frankly, many dietitians have concluded that the compensation is no longer reasonable for the work they are being asked to do.

Beef up the benefits package. If there’s no room in the budget to increase monetary compensation, offer more PTO time, a weekend-free schedule, allowances for licensure and registration fees, a budget for conferences and continuing education, or even free lunch in the cafeteria. Also consider a sign-on bonus, accelerated raises or promotion schedules, tuition reimbursement, or a higher-ranking job title.

Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. In addition to their jobs, dietitians who are parents are also juggling childcare and school uncertainties. If there’s a need for their child to quarantine, who’s staying at home with them? If classes go virtual for two weeks, who’s facilitating online learning? Consider the ways you can offer flexibility to your dietitians—Can patients be assessed during evening hours? Is there an opportunity to complete charting at home? Can dietitians join committee meetings via phone or video? Make it easier for your team members to stay at their jobs.

Consider job sharing and part-time schedules. If you have an employee who is considering resigning due to burnout, scheduling issues, or other concerns, ask if they would be willing to stay if you could scale back their hours. Sure, you need a dietitian on-site five days a week. But two days a week would be better than zero.

Remember your loyal staff who have stuck it out. Hiring new employees who are receiving substantially higher compensation packages will sting for your tried-and-true staff members. Consider retention bonuses, preferred scheduling, priority for PTO requests, amnesty for working weekends, or whatever makes sense for your group. These folks are likely experiencing burnout too, but they haven’t quit…yet. Feeling underappreciated is a driver for healthcare workers who are considering leaving their jobs.

Call a staffing company sooner, rather than later. Burnout can quickly snowball to an unmanageable situation. When your staff numbers are low, that increases the stress and strain on everyone left behind. Dietitians On Demand can help relieve the pressure and will work with you to find a temporary or permanent solution for your team. Our team knows the job market and can jazz up your job to find the best candidate.

Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC worked as a traveling dietitian for Dietitians On Demand for two years before joining the team as the corporate dietitian. In this role, she has championed the continuing education program to empower dietitians everywhere to achieve their professional goals.

Dietitians On Demand is a nationwide staffing and recruiting company for registered dietitians, specializing in short-term, temporary and permanent-hire positions in acute care, long term care and food service positions. We’re dedicated to dietitians and helping them enhance their practice and excel in the workplace. Check out our job openingsrequest your coverage, or visit our store today!