UW Health recently had 3,600 nursing shifts to fill over a six-week period.
The integrated health system, like so many across country, has turned to staffing agencies to fill workforce gaps. But that created friction between its in-house staff and travel nurses, who are often being paid at least twice as much.
On Jan. 16, UW Health implemented a new program for its around 3,400 nurses to ease some of that tension, offering a $100 hourly bonus for nurses who add a 12-hour shift to their normal weekly schedule. The Madison-based system filled 92% of its open shifts within of a week of the program's announcement.
"Now our nurses are making close to what travelers' bring home," UW Health CEO Dr. Alan Kaplan said. "But just addressing this issue from a day-to-day standpoint is woefully insufficient—we also have to strategically plan for the intermediate and long term."
Health systems and other providers are grappling with one of the biggest workforce upheavals in decades. Overstretched healthcare workers are switching jobs or leaving the industry entirely for positions with better pay and benefits, prompting healthcare companies to boost their recruitment and retention programs.
Personnel shortages were hospital CEOs' top concern, according to the American College of Healthcare Executives' annual survey, which polled 310 executives. Personnel shortages surpassed financial challenges for the first time since 2004, ACHE CEO Deborah Bowen said.
"Both long- and short-term solutions are needed to address the shortages in critical front-line staff shown in our study to ensure hospitals have workforces that can meet the demands for safe, high-quality care both today and in the future," she said.