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Five Effective Ways to Proactively Prevent Understaffing

We’ve never seen a worker shortage like the one happening in the U.S. right now. It happens in all parts of the economy and at all levels of work. Understaffing is a big problem in the healthcare business. It affects both patient care and the health and happiness of staff. Healthcare has changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and facilities must use all the tools they have to fight understaffing and the problems that come with it.

Technology has many benefits when it comes to working with fewer people. Healthcare facilities can make big steps to avoid overstaffing and understaffing and make their operations run more smoothly by adding easy-to-use tools that can help them measure important data and predict when shifts will be short-staffed.

Why does understaffing occur?

Before talking about how to fix understaffing, it’s important to know why it happens. Staffing problems in the healthcare business are caused by a number of different things, not just one. Some of these possible reasons are:

  • Aging population: The American population as a whole is getting older, and people from the baby boom group are now at an age where they need more health care. In 2029, the last person in their group will be old enough to retire. That’s an extra 73% of Americans 65 and older. As the population ages, more healthcare services are needed because older people often have more than one illness that needs to be treated. Workers are under more stress when there are a lot of people in the community who need health care.
  • Nurses burnout: 8.8% to 37% of nurses either quit their jobs because they are burned out or look for other work.
  • Aging workers: The nurses who do most of the work are also getting older. One million qualified nurses are thought to be over 50 years old, which means they will be able to retire in ten to fifteen years.
  • Less money for training: The number above includes the nursing school, which is a special problem. There are not enough nursing professors, so they have to teach more nurses with less money and time. Fewer students are able to enroll because of a lack of staff, which means fewer graduates and jobs and a general drop in the level of new applicants for healthcare jobs.
  • Families and careers often clash: most nurses are still women of childbearing age. As their families change, a lot of nurses will cut back on their hours or quit their jobs altogether.
  • Rising demand: Even though it can be hard to find willing workers in the healthcare business, the market keeps growing because more people need healthcare services.

Also Read: The 7 Most Common Reasons Healthcare Workers Are Quitting

What are the consequences of understaffing in healthcare facilities?

Understaffing affects many parts of the healthcare industry, from the health and happiness of individual staff members to the smooth running of facilities. There have been problems in the health industry since the COVID-19 outbreak put a lot of stress on the system from the ground up. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there is a direct link between not having enough staff and poor patient care. It is more likely for patients to get sick, have safety issues, or even die when there are more patients per nurse.

As healthcare workers are given more to do, the chances of them getting burned out and tired are high. It is possible for dangerous practice management workarounds and cognitive failures to happen when these workers are pushed to the limits of their physical and mental abilities. This puts the safety of both patients and the workers themselves at risk.

The following are some effects of not having enough staff:

  • Medication errors: Nurses who are in a hurry to take care of a lot of patients are more likely to give the wrong medicine.
  • Patient Falls: When healthcare workers only have a short amount of time with each patient, they are more likely to try to meet their needs without help, which can cause patients to fall or get hurt in other ways. For instance, older people would be able to get the amount of care they need to avoid problems if they knew how to keep long-term care facilities from being understaffed.
  • Dissatisfied patients: Healthcare facilities depend on comments to get new patients and make money. Bad reviews can hurt the bottom line of a healthcare center.

How to Identify Understaffing in Your Facility

Figuring out if you’re short-staffed is the first thing that needs to be done to fix the issue. If any of these problems happen in your building, it might be because you don’t have enough staff:

  • Lower output: If you look closely at your current key performance indicators and see that output is down, you might want to think about whether this is because of staff burnout. It will be hard for healthcare workers who work multiple shifts or are in charge of a lot of people to do their best work.
  • Poor morale: Employees who don’t want to do their jobs, are always late, or work extra hours may get tired because there aren’t enough workers.
  • Higher absenteeism: employees who are overworked are more likely to miss work. A clear rise in absences could be another sign of burnout caused by not having enough staff.
  • Higher staff turnover: If employees feel like their problems aren’t being addressed or that their standards are rising, they may look for work elsewhere. The loss of important employees is especially upsetting because it puts more stress on the people who are still working there.
  • Bad reviews from patients: Patients are already at risk when they are looked for by strangers. If they think staff members aren’t meeting their needs, they will leave bad reviews. If this happens often, it could mean that staff members are too busy to give them the care they need.
  • More mistakes made by people: Staff who are tired or healthcare workers who are burned out are more likely to do things wrong that could have been avoided, like giving the wrong medicine or not answering patient calls.

How to Prevent Understaffing

Understaffing in healthcare is a problem all over the world, but healthcare centers can take steps to stop it and lessen the effects of it when it does happen. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more healthcare centers are getting workforce management software and seeing technology as a useful way to handle the situation.

The five most important things that can be done to avoid understaffing are:

1. Look at your staffing needs

From your present staffing framework, carefully look at your staff’s needs while paying close attention to staffing issues. Think about the shifts that your healthcare facility has and the jobs that staff need to do during those shifts.

It’s very helpful to get feedback from your staff. Talk to staff members one-on-one or in groups about how they handle the demands of their present shifts and ask them if they think it would be helpful to have more staff available during these hours.

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When you do your survey, the information you get helps you decide how many people you need to work each shift. When your employees feel supported by their coworkers, they will be more confident in their daily tasks and less stressed about problems caused by not having enough staff.

2. Pay attention to employee benefits and keeping them

Keeping employees longer cuts down on how often you need to hire new ones. In 2021, 63% of employees said they were leaving their jobs because they didn’t like their pay or the lack of chances to move up. Additionally, 57% said they felt disrespected at work. Make a real difference in keeping employees by doing the following:

  • Pay your workers more. If you pay your workers more, they will be less productive, which can have a direct effect on your profits. Staff who are more efficient get more done. In some situations, this result is better for your organization’s finances.
  • Set up rules for overtime: some employees want to work extra hours, while others think it makes them more tired. If employees feel like they have to work extra hours, they are more likely to look for other work. Staff members won’t have to leave because they’re stressed if extra hours are standardized with their health in mind.
  • Giving your employees the chance to move up is important because they are happier when they are learning and improving at work. They are more likely to keep their jobs if they can move toward the work they enjoy. One way to make people feel like they’re making progress is to offer training and mentoring.
  • Create ways for people to get involved: Make sure that your management team gives your employees chances to talk about their experience. Their feedback gives you useful information that you can use to make your business even more efficient.

Quick Read: 8 Effective Time Management Strategies For Healthcare Staff

3. Automate your processes to make them run more smoothly.

There are many good things about using workforce robotic technology in healthcare. About 44% of administrative chores in general practice can be done by machines. This shows that adding machines makes staff much more productive. Hiring, onboarding, scheduling, and payments can all be done automatically, which frees up staff to focus on what they do best. Scheduling software is very important in healthcare and has these advantages:

  • Dealing with complicated changes.
  • Staffing by focusing on their main skills.
  • Making it easier for managers and team members to talk to each other.
  • Making payments and other business tasks easier to do.

4. Use technology to keep your employees on track.

Adding labor management software to your business operations can help in many ways, such as making the most of the workday to get employees more involved and boost performance. Mobile shift management options let workers stay in touch with each other and do the things that are most important to them at work.

With a workforce management tool made just for healthcare, you can expect to save money, stay in line with regulations, and avoid understaffing by having flexible scheduling choices. You can plan in real time and cut down on overtime if you have the right technology to help you.

Technology makes it easier for employees to talk to each other and encourages teams to work together. Tools for communication are great on their own, but giving your employees technology that helps them find good team members also lowers the risk of high turnover in your business.

5. Plan and schedule ahead of time with real-time data

The most powerful thing you have is access to info. You can make better decisions and avoid understaffing problems before they happen if you have the right information at your hands.

Data is reliable, but you need to have understanding to use it to help stop understaffing. But if you have the right tools, you’ll be able to use metrics to set strategic goals that are in line with your overall goals. You can change how you do things to get better ratings from patients, make patients safer, and make your staff happier and more involved.


Proactively preventing understaffing is crucial for maintaining productivity, employee morale, and customer satisfaction. By implementing strategic workforce planning, leveraging technology for better scheduling, fostering a flexible work environment, investing in employee retention, and utilizing temporary staffing solutions, businesses can effectively mitigate the risks associated with understaffing.

These approaches not only ensure that the organization is adequately staffed at all times but also contribute to a more engaged and motivated workforce. Ultimately, by prioritizing these proactive measures, companies can create a resilient and adaptable work environment that is well-equipped to handle fluctuating demands and unforeseen challenges.


1. How does strategic workforce planning help in preventing understaffing?

Strategic workforce planning involves analyzing current and future staffing needs to ensure that the organization has the right number of employees with the necessary skills. By forecasting demand and assessing workforce capabilities, businesses can plan ahead to avoid understaffing during peak times and ensure a smooth operational flow.

What role does technology play in managing staffing levels?

Technology, such as advanced scheduling software and workforce management systems, can streamline the scheduling process, predict staffing needs, and optimize employee availability. These tools help managers make data-driven decisions to maintain optimal staffing levels, thus preventing understaffing and reducing the likelihood of overburdening employees.

Why is employee retention important in avoiding understaffing?

High employee turnover can lead to frequent understaffing, as the time and resources required to hire and train new employees can create gaps in the workforce. By investing in employee retention through competitive compensation, career development opportunities, and a positive work environment, companies can maintain a stable and experienced workforce, minimizing the risk of understaffing.