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Staffing challenges explained – plus the good news

08 Nov 2020

How we survived, how we’re closing the gap

By: Sarah Horn, chief nursing officer

To say that 2020 has been difficult is an understatement. In addition to a hospital building fire at the beginning of our fiscal year, followed by a pandemic and wildfires consuming our state, our census is now higher than expected and some nursing units are experiencing staffing challenges. In response to these challenges, here is a review of events that led us to where we are today.

  • Even before COVID-19 struck the US, Salem Health was experiencing a financial event that led to a slowdown in our hiring.
  • With COVID-19, we experienced a serious decline in patient volumes.  As hospitals around the state were laying off nurses, we preserved jobs within our organization by reducing external hiring. 
  • Nurses and staff on standby were being closely monitored and into July we faced intermittent occurrences through the end of August. As a result, we did not hire our typical new graduate nurse cohort this summer.
  • August patient volumes approached our traditional baseline. As a result, 60 RN positions (experienced nurses and new grads) were posted, along with 45 CNA and support positions.
  • The September wildfires brought an increase in volume exacerbated by skilled nursing facilities unable to accommodate admissions while impacted staff were tending to their homes or family members who had been evacuated.
  • Bed occupancy has continued to remain high; likely due to the combination of many people having delayed care and others seeking care before their end of the year deductibles restart.

Now for the good news! 

  • We are getting a lot of interest for our job postings, which means more staff on the floor, sooner.
  • Our November new graduate nurse cohort candidates have been anxiously awaiting being hired and are eager to work, and we are onboarding them this week (a month sooner than usual). 
  • We are hiring both CNA1s and CNA2s to increase our applicant pool and reduce onboarding time; supporting our goal to close this workforce gap.

I appreciate this opportunity to lay out our plans to bolster our already amazing nursing workforce. Please continue to thank them alongside all of us for their remarkable resiliency and unwavering commitment to the care of our patients.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me or a member of the nursing leadership team directly.