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Reducing Risk with Reduced Staffing

It is nearly impossible to read about our current healthcare delivery system without embracing the significant effects of staffing shortages.

Terms like: “The Great Resignation,” burnout, compassion fatigue, low compensation, work life balance, associated costs, recruitment strategies, etc. all find themselves associated with the acute and very real staffing shortages we face today. If you speak to nearly any practice leader, they will name staffing as their top priority. Interestingly, at a recent conference of physician practice leaders, I did find one exception to that claim. I was speaking with a leader of a plastic surgery practice, and he remarked that he never has any trouble recruiting staff. With a puzzled expression, I asked, why. He said, because we offer free surgery to employees! So, I stand corrected and instead of saying all practices are suffering from staffing shortages, there is at least one that is not!

There are several published articles available to offer suggestions about how to address your recruiting strategies, but clearly there is not a magic answer. So, while we all try and improve our staffing ratios, I would like to offer some thoughts for consideration in risk reduction.

Keeping patient safety and excellence in care delivery in the forefront, hopefully you will find some of these comments helpful to you and your practice.

Practicing beyond scope of practice

In times of staff shortages, whether due to recruiting challenges or absenteeism, sometimes practice leaders feel pressured to allow employees to assume duties they are not credentialed to carry out. Also related is taking shortcuts around the standard treatment or functional protocols. These actions can present not only a potential safety concern for your patient but can result in licensure violations, putting the patient, physician, and practice at risk. 


  1. Take a step back and truly assess all the administrative activities that happen in your practice, such as pre-certs, denial appeals, AR management, insurance verification, daily prep for upcoming visits, appointment reminders, and lab callbacks. Think differently about these and other tasks and ask yourself, are we maximizing the use of our technology? Which of these tasks could be done remotely or after hours or by using a virtual assistant from an agency? Can we set up a comfortable sick room so that employees who have a mildly sick child can bring them and still report to work? Be creative.
  2. Protect patient safety by confirming competencies, complete spot checks of work performance, assure treatment protocols and telephone protocols, including triage and patient follow-up cadences are all maintained and compliance with these protocols is emphasized.


Protecting your culture

Reducing staff turnover in times of shortages is important. Do your best to minimize the effects of burnout and maximize a culture of resilience, appreciation, and collegiality. 


  1. Offer an agile work schedule.
  2. Promote a culture of safety so employees are not intimidated to ask questions or ask for help.
  3. Encourage participation in practice decisions as appropriate.
  4. Protect your staff from disruptive and difficult patients by stepping in quickly and assisting the unhappy patient.
  5. Offer recognition. Even simple, silly things are truly appreciated.
  6. Participate in community service activities as a practice.
  7. Inspire a culture of inclusivity to benefit your practice and your patients.


These are just a few suggestions, and I am sure you have many others you have discovered over the past many months. Networking with your fellow practice leaders is extremely valuable to share ideas or just for affirmation and support. In the Risk Solutions department at Curi, we are proud to help you any way that we can. Two recently published tools focused on well-being can be accessed on our website and we would encourage you to take just a few minutes to engage with these new resources.


The opinions and views expressed in this blog post belong to and are solely those of the individual author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Curi Advisory or Curi Advisory’s parent or affiliated companies or their members, insureds, clients, customers, or partners.