How staffing shortages are a mental burden on healthcare professionals

Katie Lawrence serves as the executive director of ambulatory optimization and integration at Greenville, S.C.-based Prisma Health Medical Group. 

Ms. Lawrence will serve on the panel "The New Work-Life Balance: Best Ideas to Meet Staff and Physician Needs" at Becker's 19th Annual Spine, Orthopedic & Pain Management-Driven ASC Conference. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place in Chicago from June 16-18. 

To learn more and register, click here.

Question: What issues are you spending most of your time on today?

Katie Lawrence: Staffing is a huge concern right now. As we think about any changes or new initiatives in healthcare, we have to consider the people who will be engaged in the work. Even regular operations can be a huge challenge when work units are understaffed. So, when we look to make changes, even beneficial changes for the team or their patients, that's an added "burden." It's a mental burden if nothing else. Change is hard, and change when understaffed is incredibly challenging.

Q: What are your top challenges and how will they change over the next 12 months?

KL: Staffing and financial resources are big ones. Supplies cost more to run the physical building, and it's getting more expensive to recruit and retain high-caliber teams. It will continue to be important to leverage technology where possible, be creative in solving problems, and be open to new ways of doing things rather than commit to how we have always done things.

Q: How are you thinking about investments and growth in the next two years? 

KL: We are planning for physical expansion and new and creative ways to meet our patients where they are. That might be through video visits, which spiked during the first part of the pandemic but then slowly eroded, or through remote patient monitoring. Or even chatbots and asynchronous communication. We need to get more efficient in our interactions with our patients because their time is expensive too. Also, their attention span and tolerance for inefficiency and less-than-optimal experience are shrinking rapidly as competitors and disruptors enter the healthcare space.

Q: What are you most excited about right now?  

KL: I'm excited about the potential! We are learning so much about what makes people choose different avenues of healthcare and any other consumer service. We're learning how to perform better as teams. We have traction around different payment models and sites of service. And now, we are going to be able to leverage these new innovations at a time when the global pandemic is, hopefully, receding so that we can come up with sustainable plans to engage with our teams and patients in a way that fits the new ways of life that have become a part of our routines while rebuilding the relationships that are so critical to excellence in healthcare.

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