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August 10, 2021 | HR Compliance | Posted by Ascentis Thought Leadership

How Can Healthcare Employers Stay Compliant with Staffing Regulations?

The healthcare industry has spent much of the past two years under a microscope as the world scrambled to cope with an unprecedented health crisis. With all of that newly focused attention, it comes as little surprise that we're now seeing renewed attention on new and existing healthcare-related legislation on the federal, state, and local levels. For many employers, this shift in focus will necessitate a reassessment of their workforce management practices and policies.

Scheduling Certified Staff

Much healthcare-related legislation focuses on keeping hospitals and healthcare facilities fully staffed under any scenario, largely as a reaction to widely reported shortages of health workers during the pandemic. For example, under one federal nursing law that is receiving renewed attention, healthcare facilities must staff "adequate numbers of licensed registered nurses, licensed practical (vocational) nurses and other personnel to provide nursing care to all patients as needed."

From a patient's perspective, this regulation addresses serious concerns about a lack of qualified or experienced caregivers. While providing fully certified patient care is obviously the goal of every healthcare provider, this can be a complicated proposition from an employer's perspective. With healthcare facilities in the midst of a long-standing worker shortage that only worsened during the pandemic, maintaining a properly certified staff across multiple shifts can be a real challenge.

Effective scheduling for healthcare providers can be especially difficult due to the 24-hour nature of many facilities. Making sure that properly licensed and certified staff are on hand for every shift is a tricky proposition that's made even trickier by a turnover rate of nearly 20%. Nurses also rank among the top three professions for taking sick days, necessitating a steady supply of qualified substitutes. For most employers, that makes scheduling software that can automatically identify and flag any shifts not covered by a certified employee something close to a necessity.

Using Learning Management to Help Ensure Compliance

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or simply ACA) laid out more stringent requirements of healthcare staff training and certification, as well as a number of programs aimed at helping nurses and other staffers reach those goals. Those training expectations extend to higher learning and competency development requirements for both full-time and part-time healthcare employees. With a number of states and municipalities setting similar certification requirements, employers have more motivation than ever to provide their staffers with opportunities for training and advancement.

Pursuing further training and education can be a difficult proposition for healthcare staffers who are already overworked and overstressed. For many employees, that makes an on-the-job learning management system especially appealing. By giving workers the tools they need to study and train for certifications while they work, employers can retain staff who might otherwise take time off to return to school.

Providing a clear path for advancement also helps to keep employees engaged in their jobs, which can also reduce turnover rates and boost morale across the organization. With demand for advanced practice nurses (APNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) at an all-time high, upgrading learning management systems is a must for most healthcare employers.

Addressing Nurse-to-Patient Ratios with Improved Recruitment

Nurse-to-patient ratios have been a hot-button issue in healthcare employment for many years. While there is currently no federal standard specifying a number of nurses or trained healthcare providers a facility must provide for every patient or resident (other than the vague guideline of "adequate numbers"), a number of states do have similar laws on the books. California goes the farthest, with a law that mandates specific ratios of nurses-to-patients in a variety of caregiving situations. With increased public scrutiny of staffing levels following the pandemic and healthcare workers' unions continuing to advocate for expanding these laws, it is in healthcare employers' best interests to focus on workable staff-to-patient ratios.

Maintaining an ideal ratio of staffers and patients is yet another goal that is made more complicated by the ongoing worker shortage and the healthcare industry's high rates of turnover and burnout. As noted above, improved scheduling systems and opportunities for on-the-job learning and advancement can be very helpful with retaining quality employees and maintaining ideal staffing levels.

This is also an area where employers may want to invest in upgrading their recruitment and hiring processes. Recruiting qualified healthcare employees is a consistent challenge, especially in the small towns and rural communities that are hardest-hit by the worker shortage. That challenge becomes even greater for a human resources team trying to manage recruitment and hiring by hand. An automated recruitment system that can push job openings to relevant job boards and social media networks is an invaluable tool for employers aiming to improve their ratios and maintain a fully staffed and responsive workplace.

We've looked at just a few of the areas of healthcare employment impacted by state and federal regulations. As new laws are written and new priorities emerge, it is essential for employers to have the flexibility and responsiveness to accommodate those changes. Find out how workforce management solutions from Ascentis can help keep your healthcare facility fully staffed, certified and compliant.

With more than 35 years of experience in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, Ascentis thought leaders have become a respected source for insights, tips, and innovations in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space.