The “Great Resignation”, which has affected all sectors of our economy, has hit healthcare especially hard, with one in five workers leaving the field since the beginning of the pandemic.
At BH, this has meant as many as 2,000 open positions among our 13,000 employees (versus 500-600 pre-pandemic), all at a time of unprecedented increases in demand. Staffing shortages were made even worse by pandemic-related absences (employees who fell ill or were awaiting test results to return to work). These absences peaked at 880 during the Omicron surge.
Our Human Resources (HR) Department stepped up to these challenges with energy and creativity, and the tide is beginning to turn in key shortage areas. Open positions have fallen to 1,500, and turnover rates have declined in most major categories. Here is a summary of key workforce initiatives:
- Safety: HR managed the safe return to work for 5,256 employees in 2022. A 24/7 hot line was staffed to address concerns regarding exposures and vaccination, as well as a variety of other issues. A support service was launched to help nurses and other employees involved in incidents of workplace violence. Ongoing training of security and front-line personnel in psychological de-escalation has supplemented an already robust system of reporting and analysis of these events.
- Hiring and On-boarding: HR more than doubled its recruitment staff, including diverse recruitment specialists. A Bring It, Baystate! employee referral program won a national award for corporate communications and yielded 248 hires. The “I’m New Here” networking program provided support and guidance for new employees to smooth the transition to a new job.
- Well-being and Engagement: BH launched a comprehensive campaign to help address burnout which included employee appreciation days, a virtual Years of Service event, pet therapy events, and an event at Six Flags Amusement Park attended by 3,500 team members and their families. Flexible work arrangements were expanded, and a suite of on-line well-being programs was launched.
- Workforce Development: BH entered the pandemic with the advantages of its robust training programs, including 30 health professions programs in partnership with local colleges and universities, as well as over a dozen apprenticeships for non-degree roles. Innovations that built on these partnerships included a grant funded program with Holyoke Community College to train 270 Certified Nurse Assistants over the next two years and an on-site training program for Medical Assistants that featured a pay-to-train approach. Leaders from BH were founding members of the Western Mass Nursing Collaborative years ago, which fosters interest in nursing careers. They also are working with partners at Westfield State University, American International College, and Elms College to enlarge the pipeline for nursing students, 300 of whom train at Baystate Medical Center each semester.