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I don’t have to tell you that there's a healthcare workforce shortage, which was not helped by Covid.

Though U.S. healthcare employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to the American Hospital Association, hospitals and health systems are expected to have to fill more than 203,000 open nursing positions every year until 2031. And we'll also be facing a shortage of 37,800-124,000 physicians by 2034.

Top of Mind

So, it’s no surprise that workforce challenges are top of mind for hospital CEOs. It ranked No. 1 on the list of hospital CEO's top concerns in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) most recent survey.

To address healthcare workforce issues, ACHE things healthcare organizations need to:

  1. Strengthen the workforce pipeline
  2. Support and develop staff
  3. Build staff resilience
  4. Organize services to reflect labor market realities
  5. Explore alternative models of care.

Which are all good strategies.

Meaning and Purpose

But here’s the thing.

While I don't have any data to back this up (other than Gensler's research on nonprofit employees), I think most people go into healthcare because they are intrinsically motivated to learn new things and take on challenges.

They thrive on being able to find meaning and purpose in their work.

So, as Gensler suggests for nonprofit organizations, if hospitals and health systems reimagine themselves not as enforcers of productivity, but enablers of purpose, they will tap into that motivation, which can help recruit and retain employees.

Can ASHE's strategies above for addressing healthcare workforce issues reflect meaning and purpose? Some of them, probably. But those of you designing healthcare facilities should also be taking this into consideration.

How Design Can Help

What's important to healthcare staff that can tap into their sense of meaning and purpose and make them feel valued and cared for in the physical workplace environment? How about these 7 things:

  1. Beauty
  2. Joy
  3. Caring
  4. Fun
  5. Privacy
  6. Camaraderie
  7. Safety and security

Every one of them can be reflected in the design of the physical environment. But it requires some different thinking and creative solutions. We're not just talking about respite areas or access to nature (although those are good things).

The time has come to embrace the idea of supporting why people work in healthcare instead of just how they work

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Joseph Sprague, FAIA

11 months ago

Thanks Sara! Keep up the great work!

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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