Our national effort to vaccinate for Covid-19 is proving more difficult than expected. Even with two authorized vaccines (and others pending), ‘last mile’ challenges from storage limitations and a shortage of vaccination supplies to patient scheduling issues and vaccine hesitancy have hindered the U.S. rollout. Yet another concern, say experts, is vaccination staffing. That is, having enough trained clinical personnel available across the U.S. to put shots in arms.
In a typical flu season, the workforce challenge of administering vaccine is more predictable and easily managed. Healthcare organizations plan well in advance for vaccine distribution and administration and the responsibilities can be distributed to internal resources that include physicians, nurses and other clinicians ranging from PAs to Pharmacy Technicians.
Staffing and scheduling for mass Covid-19 vaccinations is less predictable and more vexing for hospitals and health systems. Here’s why:
Ongoing Healthcare Worker Shortages
The pandemic has amplified long-standing healthcare worker shortages and inequities in the U.S. From primary care physicians to nurses, hospitals have struggled for years to stay adequately staffed. Even before the pandemic, it was common for large urban hospitals to have 100s of unfilled nursing roles, and the gap between the number of nursing jobs advertised and the available supply of qualified nurses grows every year.
Using Internal Staff May Not Be Viable
To fill short-term scheduling needs, hospitals often ask internal staff or medical students to take extra shifts or sign-up for overtime. But much of that flexible staffing capacity is now consumed with other responsibilities like Covid-19 testing or direct patient care. How bad is the strain of the pandemic? One recent study suggests that hospitals in half of all U.S. states now face Covid-related staffing challenges.
Competition for Workers
When vaccination staffing with existing personnel is not possible, organizations can supplement their teams with new hires and short-term contractors. But competition for staff is fierce, pitting hospitals against one another for hourly workers in local markets and driving up pay rates. Competition will increase as more large-scale vaccination centers are launched in the months ahead. The available pool of medical workers authorized to administer vaccines is also limited by state licensure requirements, although regulators are now exploring changes to loosen those rules and allow vaccinators to cross state lines.
Recruitment and hiring are also complicated by the variety of skillsets required to operate a mass vaccination program. In addition to Vaccinators, hiring managers may need to identify personnel for patient screening, data entry, scheduling, translation, and security, among other roles.
Covid vaccinations have been a scheduling nightmare for healthcare organizations. There are multiple reports of vaccine clinics and appointments being cancelled on short notice because vaccine allocations don’t materialize as promised. Vaccination staff retention becomes more difficult when scheduled shifts are cancelled and can ultimately result in attrition if healthcare workers are not able to count on consistent scheduling.
Vaccination Staffing and Healthcare IT Leaders
To meet the challenges of vaccination staffing, many hiring managers are looking for outside staffing support, like that provided by Healthcare IT Leaders. Our firm’s Covid-19 services include clinical and vaccination staffing, Covid-19 testing, Contract Tracing, and IT consulting. We are engaged with large health systems to hire and manage clinical and non-clinical personnel for large-scale mass vaccination efforts.
If this is a need for your organization, talk to our experts today and see how we can help.