Solving the Healthcare Workforce Crisis

May 14, 2024

In this Q&A, Forest Kim explains how the Robbins Healthcare MBA Program equips students to tackle the healthcare industry’s most pressing workforce challenges. 

In a survey conducted by the American College of Healthcare Executives, hospital CEOs reported workforce challenges as their top concern for the second year in a row. From demographic shifts to hiring shortages to burnout, the healthcare industry is grappling with the need to build a more sustainable workforce. 

Several years ago, we sat down with Forest Kim, the program director of the Robbins Healthcare MBA Program, to learn about how the program prepares students to navigate a wide range of challenges. Below, we follow up with a conversation focused on the workforce. 

What are the primary workforce-related challenges that healthcare administrators are facing?

Healthcare administrators are experiencing mounting issues with staffing shortages, high turnover, high cost of contract providers, clinician burnout and workplace safety concerns. In each one of these areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated forces that were already in play. We have been talking about healthcare provider shortages for decades. According to the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis (NCHWA), the U.S. is projected to have a shortage of more than 300,000 registered nurses, 140,000 physicians and 100,000 psychologists in the next 15 years. In part, the problem stems from the educational pipeline. There are not enough residencies for medical school graduates, limited capacity within medical schools and a limited number of nursing educators. At the same time, turnover of full-time and part-time hospital staff is the highest on record in 16 years of benchmarking. 

What do you see as the root causes of burnout and high turnover?

One key driver for why people burn out and leave is negative perceptions of senior leadership. Healthcare workers need to feel seen and supported in the daily challenges they face. If that is not the case, they will leave. I have seen some statistics that indicate upwards of 60 to 80 percent of employees who leave will leave within the first year. It is imperative for leaders to determine and address their concerns early on to improve retention. We can also point to a cascade effect. When you have more turnover and shortages, the people who remain are doing more with less. They are more likely to burn out and leave as well, contributing to the cycle. We also know based on research that a lot of job satisfaction stems from positive relationships with coworkers. If those coworkers are changing all the time, there is not the same sense of loyalty or belonging. High turnover often means that coworkers are less experienced and more likely to make mistakes, adding to a sense of frustration. On top of that, we are witnessing an increase in workplace violence. Close to 60 percent of healthcare workers have experienced physical violence in the workplace—typically from patients who are frustrated and lashing out—and around 67 percent have experienced verbal violence. 

What are some of the ways that healthcare leaders are effectively confronting these challenges?

There is a renewed emphasis on rounding as a tool to address staff concerns. By walking around and visiting patients, talking to staff members and taking mental notes, senior leaders can remove barriers for their people to do their best work. Healthcare leaders are also devoting more time and energy into building workplace culture. Quint Studer, bestselling author, founder of the Studer Group and current partner of the HealthCare Plus Solutions Group, champions an idea I find particularly impactful. On every employee’s first day, their new colleagues share how they felt on their own first day and share their contact information so that they can be a resource. It sounds simple, but gestures like this can go a long way in making people feel more confident and connected. Leaders are also making more investments in new employee onboarding, with 30-, 60-, and 90-day check-ins. On the technological side, health systems are in the early stages of leveraging AI tools to reduce providers’ workload. For example, advances in natural language processing make it possible for AI to populate a patient’s chart in real time, enhancing the provider’s ability to focus on the patient and reducing the time they spend on documentation. 

What strategies for solving workforce challenges are not working well?

Conventional wisdom says that throwing money at the problem will fix it, but salary is not the primary reason for shortages. Healthcare providers that try to raise salaries without investing in retention strategies and building a better culture will not achieve their goals in the long run. Those who try to confront tight margins by asking providers to simply do more with less will face an uphill battle. 

How are you equipping Baylor Healthcare MBA students to tackle these challenges? 

Workforce challenges are so complex and multi-faceted that there is no magic bullet. Through classes in organizational behavior, management communication and leadership, our students glean practical insights for leading teams more effectively. Baylor is distinctive in its focus on servant leadership, which equips students to lead with empathy and humility for the benefit of their colleagues and patients. 

Outside of a classroom setting, they are frequently exposed to real-world challenges and solutions through executive speaker series, visits to local health systems and a nine-month administrative residency. Hearing about workforce challenges is one thing; experiencing them is another. By the time Baylor students graduate, they have experienced the reality on the ground and can formulate viable solutions to workforce issues. 

What’s Next 

Are you ready to tackle the most pressing healthcare challenges of our time? Click here for more information about the Robbins MBA Healthcare Program or fill out the form below to speak to one of our admissions advisors.