Data from Elsevier Health shows that 75% of healthcare workers will leave the industry by 2025—unless we do something about it.
Here’s a snapshot of the current state of healthcare: Turnover is up. Job satisfaction is down. And people are leaving their jobs in droves. DSP retention, in particular, is an issue.
Crushing burnout combined with fierce competition for talent has pushed the healthcare industry to the brink, and now health systems across the entire country have their backs against the ropes.
Since mid-February 2020, nearly one in five healthcare workers have walked away from their jobs. This is a troubling trend—one that’s been on a steep trajectory long before COVID-19 upended daily life as we once knew it.
And unless health systems find a way to stem the tide and put this freight train in reverse, the entire world of healthcare could end up on the wrong end of a powerful knock-out punch.
But how do health systems and hospitals fight back?
It almost seems that employers just can’t do enough to convince their staff to stick around.
And it’s not for lack of trying.
Some organizations revamp their benefits packages and retirement programs and implement hiring bonuses. In contrast, others hope that the fulfillment and status that used to come with the territory will be enough to attract potential hires.
Still, the turnover rate in healthcare has risen nearly 5% across all jobs in the industry over the last decade. Moreover, 53.8% of Allied Health employees leave their jobs within two years.
Reasons for this are personal for each individual, but low pay, burnout, and a lack of appreciation on-the-job are all common themes.
But one reason stands out above all others: limited career growth.
Professionals are practically starving for healthcare employee training programs, and a large percentage are willing to leave their current jobs for employers that provide long-term career development.
So, what’s the takeaway?
If you want to establish a culture that fosters trust, support, and psychological safety, empower your direct support professionals (DSPs) to grow within their careers.
Staff shortages and the devastating impact on health systems
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare is one of the fastest-growing economic sectors, with 2.6 million healthcare jobs that need to be filled over the next ten years.
Industry growth of that magnitude is usually met with optimistic jubilation as steady growth often leads to greater profitability and success.
But here’s the rub: 19% of hospitals surveyed report critical staff shortages.
The full-time equivalent (FTE) staff per adjusted occupied bed has gone down nearly 3% from pre-pandemic levels. This is all while patient acuity (measured by patient length-of-stay) has increased by almost 6% since 2020.
These two intersecting trends mean fewer employees on the clock to treat a growing number of sick and injured patients—and the financial losses are astronomical.
An analysis of workforce data found that staffing shortages have cost hospitals a brain-melting $24 billion since 2020, with an additional $3 billion in the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.
We’re talking about essentials like gloves, gowns, masks/respirators, goggles, and face shields.
However, those (striking) figures only tell a fraction of the story.
We haven’t even touched on staff shortages in clinical groups, physicians’ offices, pharmacies, diagnostic laboratories, and urgent care clinics—and we’ve yet to explore the impact on patient care.
Unfortunately, access to efficient, quality care is directly linked to the strength of the workforce that provides that care. While financial setbacks may have health systems feeling the hurt, it’s really the patients who suffer.
In addition to these billion-dollar losses, healthcare workers have had to contend with swift advancements in technology, increasing job demands, and high-pressure work environments — all in the midst of a global pandemic.
So it’s no surprise that 80% of healthcare workers say they suffer from some degree of burnout, leading medical assistants, nurses, physicians, and other related professions to look for better options.
They’re exhausted—both mentally and physically. It’s no surprise DSP retention would suffer as a result.
Across the country, these staff shortages and employee fatigue are derailing efforts to treat patients. This leads to longer waiting times, rushed treatment, and in some cases, costly mistakes.
Because when hospitals are understaffed, and care is inadequate, people die.
And that’s not a scare tactic.
An examination of nearly 200,000 nursing shifts showed that staffing of registered nurses below target levels is directly related to increased patient mortality, resulting in a 2% to 6% higher risk of death.
Premature transfers and discharges, medication errors, and permanent disability are also rising as health systems struggle to attract and retain the right people.
Concrete retention strategies can reverse the trend and increase DSP retention
All the statistical information above paints a pretty grim picture, but it isn’t all doom and gloom.
The industry’s reached the proverbial tipping point where a drastic shift in perspective is absolutely critical—and the universal embrace of new strategies can get the entire industry back on the right track.
We’re talking about people-focused policies. DSP Retention strategies that only 20% of health systems have in place, designed to give employees greater control over their career trajectory.
Here’s a breakdown of what that might look like:
Structured Career Pathing
MRINetwork has found that 72% of job candidates are driven by career advancement opportunities. For the individual direct support professional, this means they have the potential for recognition, more pay, and greater responsibilities.
And when organizations actively invest in making structured career pathing (ongoing performance discussions, cross-functional training or upskilling, and a clear outline of roles and responsibilities) a top priority, it can lead to anywhere between 25% and 60% greater DSP retention.
Customized Healthcare Training Programs
One of the defining characteristics of structured career pathing is allocating budget to employees’ long-term development. For example, through an integrative Learning Management System (LMS). As the industry rapidly evolves, forward-thinking organizations looking to future-proof their workforce partner. Given this, they utilize eLearning providers to offer ongoing healthcare training and certification preparation for their employees.
These custom skills-based courses are often evaluated by industry experts to ensure relevance and tailored to specific organizational objectives.
Other specific benchmarks to consider:
- Stakeholder buy-in
- Completion rates
- Engagement rates
- Internal needs and skills gaps
Evaluating the professional landscape, you’ll find that data is king. It’s probably the thing that matters most. That’s because it offers profound insights. Data tells you where your team has been, where they are, and where they’re going. And it’s that path forward that will help you measure your organization’s return on investment (ROI).
So don’t make the classic mistake of treating data like some sort of scary liability. Don’t poorly manage and unevenly distribute it across teams. Taking this approach just limits its value. Instead, embracing data—and all its underlying meanings—can boost efficiency, improve patient care, and reduce disparities, all while potentially saving the entire industry (and your organization) billions in hiring and staffing costs.
Career development. On-the-job healthcare training. Leveraging data. These are three elements of an effective retention strategy. But it all starts at the leadership level, with a mission-critical goal of creating a culture of support and inclusion.
And it starts with your people.
By showing DSPs you care about their success—both personally and professionally—you’re more likely to retain their services. As they sharpen their skills and expand their knowledge within your org structure, patients will inevitably receive better care.
The current state of the industry isn’t ideal. In fact, it’s downright scary. But the future is bright. And, with concrete retention strategies in place, health systems will have everything they need to reduce turnover, cut costs, and increase employee engagement.
Want to learn more?
Visit www.carruslearn.com to find out what you can do to empower your DSPs and build a stronger workforce.