As our team has previously outlined, the workforce crisis has far reaching impacts on life sciences companies. But time constraints and evolving demands for evidence and support are not the only effects the growing workforce crisis will have on the life sciences industry—the experience-complexity gap is growing.
As mass retirements accelerate, there is an exodus of experience leaving organizations across the country. The ongoing exodus of clinical experience has accelerated during the pandemic as patient complexity continues its established upwards trend.
This loss of clinical and technical expertise, coupled with more complex care, poses significant challenges for novice nurses, nurse leaders, and health system executives writ large. Life sciences leaders have a role to play in closing the gap and preserving clinical quality and safety.
Q: When you think about the current state of the workforce, what do you think is most important for life sciences leaders to understand about the environment?
Carol Boston-Fleischhauer: The first thing to know is that this is not a short-term problem. Yes, we've seen staffing shortages cyclically, but this is different. There were structural workforce challenges before Covid that weren't addressed then and still haven't been addressed. The workforce is extremely battered and there are higher early retirement rates than ever before. Additionally, younger employees are seeking newly defined work-life balance and are spending less time working at a single organization.
Q: Do you see opportunities for life sciences leaders to support their health system partners?
Boston-Fleischhauer: There are two facets to current nursing challenges—one side is extremely burnt out and tired, while the other is inexperienced and not prepared to provide complex care. I see a few places where life sciences organizations can help:
One example of this is Janssen's virtual reality training tool. After introducing a new blood cancer drug in the UK, Janssen realized they needed to build oncology nurse confidence around drug administration and side effect management. To do so, the organization created a virtual reality clinic simulation where nurses could practice in a low-pressure environment. The training was rolled out to 85% of target NHS nurses. 100% of targeted nurses reported that the virtual reality tool would help their clinical practice and better prepare them for treatment initiation.
The experience-complexity gap isn't going anywhere soon, and to make meaningful improvements we have to think of this as a health care ecosystem challenge—not just a hospital and health system issue. We're at a point where life sciences companies will need to redefine how they collaborate with clinical organizations if they are to be true partners.
A good place to start is with an audit of existing resources that could be re-purposed to support partners, such as internal trainings curated and shared with clients. Closer relationships and more hands-on training may be the key to closing the workforce gap.
Are you collaborating with clients and partners to address the workforce crisis? We'd love to hear your stories. Email Lauren Woodrow at WoodrowL@advisory.com to share.
Concerns about an imbalance in supply and demand in the nursing workforce have been around for years. The number of nursing professionals nationally may be healthy, but many nurses are not in the local areas, sites of care, or roles where they're needed most. And many of today's nurses don't have the specialized skills they need, widening the existing gap between nurse experience and job complexity. As a result, gaping holes in staffing rosters, prolonged vacancies, unstable turnover rates, and unchecked use of premium labor are now common.
Health care leaders need to confront today's challenges in the nursing workforce differently than past cyclical shortages. In this report, we present six hard truths about the nursing workforce. Then, we detail tactics for how leaders can successfully address these challenges—stabilizing the nursing workforce in the short term and preparing it for the future.
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