The Healthcare Hub

Are We Still ‘In This Together?’: Healthcare Supply Chain Faces the Great Resignation

Monday, January 24, 2022

With featured advocates Brian Dolan, Vice President, Resource Management, Bayhealth Medical Center, and Ryan Rotar, System Director, ERP Solutions, UNC Health

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic, the mental and physical impact on healthcare workers continues to have consequences that will play out for years to come. Already this year we’ve seen an organized nationwide protest from nurses who say that working conditions have deteriorated as new waves of Covid-19 patients push hospitals to their limits.

The healthcare workforce is clearly taking a direct hit. According to an October 2021 survey by Morning Consult, “18% of health care workers have quit their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, while another 12% have been laid off.” Moreover, nearly one-third of those workers who’ve kept their jobs say they’ve contemplated a career change.

I recently spoke with two healthcare leaders about the effects of this “Great Resignation” and the steps their health systems are taking to safeguard their employees. According to Ryan Rotar, System Director, ERP Solutions, at North Carolina-based UNC Health, the industry still needs to make significant strides to protect and maintain staff.

“I see staff prioritizing their work over self-care to keep up with demand,” Rotar said. “This is leading to a greater risk of burnout and fatigue. While remedies such as complimentary counseling, encouragement to take time off, and higher wages are being deployed I don't know that these are enough to retain good staff.”

Rotar said that losing a small number of staff can have significant consequences. “Reduction of staff in critical areas certainly reduces the ability to perform ancillary activities such as value analysis, contract analysis and quality improvement,” he said. “Often, even with a small decrease in support in these areas comes a reprioritization of duties which can contribute to the de-prioritization of these activities.”   

Defining ‘In This Together’ for 2022

Heading into 2022, Brian Dolan, Vice President, Resource Management, at Bayhealth Medical Center, recognized the need to take action in response to pandemic-fueled job stress. He developed a plan to help his team advance its guiding vision to avoid what he saw as a self-perpetuating “fight-or-flight” loop. Additionally, his team wanted to take steps to ensure that nurses and doctors could stay focused on patient care.

As 2021 ended, Dolan brought together a cross-functional group of Bayhealth team members and challenged them with a question, “How are we connected to our patients, and how are we going to deliver on that?”

Guest speakers from AHRMM and other industry partners, joined Bayhealth’s Supply Chain, Clinical Engineering and Sterile Processing teams to establish a frame of reference layering each group’s vision for the future and how it connects back to the patient.

The workshop resulted in a statement re-envisioning what “in this together,” means for the supply chain team in 2022: “Bayhealth Resource Management is committed to driving exceptional integrated services to promote positive patient outcomes and community relationships.” They took the exercise a step further by specifically defining certain terms within this vision -- ‘exceptional’ = best; ‘integrated’ = all services are unified; patient outcomes = always starting with the lens of ‘are my actions going to benefit the patient.’

This level of detail enabled them to identify actionable ways to achieve this vision. Dolan and team prioritized two areas of commitment where they could quickly achieve greater benefit for their patients:

  • Capacity management and patient flow
  • Enabling clinical partners to operate at the top of their license by providing support with other time-consuming tasks

“Nurses shouldn’t be using time searching for linens or patient transport, they need that time to deliver on care plans and ensure a focus on safety and quality,” Dolan said. One way they put this commitment into action was by integrating patient transport in the supply chain team.

The Resource Management team also asked the clinical engineering team to conduct an inventory review, and are augmenting supply using real-time location systems to track and identify priority items that can create drag in capacity management, such as stretchers.

They have also increased purpose within their team by elevating the role of supply chain technicians to resource technicians who focus more broadly on supporting clinical staff. Additionally, the Bayhealth Resource Management team is standing up a 24/7 in-house hotline that all clinical partners can call to fill any resource needs, including patient transport, clinical engineering support, sterilization support and more.

Rotar says that he has seen shifts in the way teams are staffed as well. “I see more focus on staffing models that rely more heavily on third parties for activities that can be performed outside of the hospital and aren't a physical job,” he said. “Reciprocally I can also see this being a catalyst to elevate supply chain and other administrative roles with organizations.”

Brian Dolan and Ryan Rotar are featured members of Unite 360: The GHX Advocate Community, which launched in January 2022. They both say they look forward to Unite 360 being a new channel to collaborate as an industry in real-time, a place to share lessons learned, and empower members to be storytellers who benefit from collective knowledge.

Image Description

Neah Downs Dybas

Director of Customer Loyalty