New Healthcare Workforce Complexities Requires Smarter Solutions

As the number of COVID-19 cases begin to decline, healthcare leaders are finally able to take a step back and assess the gaps that the pandemic has exposed in their operations. When they do, workforce management, should be on their list of key areas to address, according to Nanne Finis, Chief Nurse Executive at Kronos.

Complex workforce management

COVID-19 had a massive impact on healthcare workforces. Some staff had to be temporarily furloughed when elective procedures were suspended. Some had to suddenly do their work from home. Others had to work extended hours to handle the influx of patients. Some even had to work in temporary pop-up health facilities in parks and parking lots.

Now imagine trying to manage all of that using an antiquated system, or worse, using a spreadsheet. Believe it or not Finis has seen some organizations try to do just that. You can guess at the results. Finis points to many factors that should be incorporated into decisions on who and where to deploy staff:

  • Matching the skill of the person to the needs of patients/facility
  • Ensuring that there is enough PPE on hand before assigning staff to a facility
  • Reducing/eliminating the number of back-to-back shifts
  • Ensuring experience diversity on the teams

A new wrinkle

The situation in New York City has added a new wrinkle to workforce management – out-of-state temporary staff.  “New York City is a great example of where boundaries were taken down immediately,” Finis said. “We saw staff from Banner in the Arizona market and staff from Intermountain in Utah flying out to New York to support their colleagues.”

Assigning these temporary staff to needed areas of a health system adds a whole new layer of complexity to workforce management and Finis believes this is not going to be something that is unique to New York.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of CEOs in the New York Market say they’ve developed relationships with hospital systems outside their state and will be reciprocating when those other systems need staff,” she added. “I think we’re going to see significant sharing of staff and that will only grow going forward. We can’t do this alone anymore.”

What staff want

For years we have been talking about how patients want the convenience of using their smartphones for healthcare (ie: to book appointment as easy as making a reservation for dinner…back when we could do that sort of thing). We called it the consumerism movement. That same movement applies to healthcare staff as well.

Physicians, nurses, admin support staff and even maintenance teams want to be able to use mobile tools at work that are similar to what they use in their personal lives. In other words, they want something simple, easy, readily accessible and needing very little training to use. They want to easily communicate with colleagues, they want to be able to see their work schedules integrated with their calendars and they want to be able to self manage their work schedules as much as possible.

AI can help

Kronos is a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. As such, they are uniquely positioned to see future needs of healthcare leaders when it comes to managing their staff. By working closely with their clients, they realized that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could handle a lot of the complexities that were beginning to overwhelm HR staff.

“Take matching staff skills with the needs of patients,” said Finis. “This is something that can be easily done with AI. There’s no need to have staff pouring over spreadsheets for hours on end to get the right staff to the right department in the right hospital. It can all be automated, and we’ve done that.”

Kronos has introduced AI-powered assistants to their platform that simplify daily tasks by providing “smart and predictive recommendations”.

Impact on Nurses

Finis is optimistic, not just about technology’s role in healthcare, but about the future of nursing as a profession. Nursing has always been a unique blend of art and science. Technology has the power to unlock a lot of potential from both angles – letting nurses operate at top of license and as their best selves. The current pandemic has also given the world a glimpse of the heroism nurses exhibit every day.

“The art of nursing is listening, compassion, and supporting the family and patient during trying times,” explained Finis. “So when you see nurses today getting visibility that is so well deserved and so needed, it’s evident the future is in our hands…the future is bright, and we have the scientific framework in our practice to know how to care for patients of all types. And with the support of the healthcare industry and the systems we work in, I think only good will happen as we continue to think about the profession.”

Watch the full interview with Finis to learn more about:

  • Why workforce management is one of the “Hot Technologies Moving Forward”
  • Scenarios where poor staffing can lead to poor clinical outcomes
  • “Primary” versus “team” nursing and its implications in patient care
  • How complexity in care calls for more sophisticated and tailored staffing models
  • A new angle on the “nursing shortage” we face – is it really a shortage after all?

To learn more about Kronos, visit their healthcare website at

This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100

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About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.