The physical and emotional pressure of treating COVID-19 patients over the last two and a half years has caused record levels of burnout and attrition among healthcare providers worldwide. Such an unprecedented global health event, swiftly followed by a burgeoning cost of living crisis and a raft of other global concerns, has contributed to a health and social care staffing shortage, contributing to tensions ranging from overworked nurses and doctors to escalating violence from patients.
Many staff are now tired, discouraged and looking for a new career.
A study from McKinsey reports that 32% of nurses are considering leaving their current position, with only a third intending to remain. Add the ‘Baby Boomer’ retirement trend as the cherry on top and it serves to compound the healthcare provider shortage, which is severely hindering the ability of hospitals and health systems to care for the communities they serve.
One healthcare leader working to change the tide is Ingenovis Health. Founded in 2021 through the company of industry-leading workforce solutions firms and based outside of Denver, Colorado, the company is transforming the healthcare sector by committing unprecedented resources and focus to the mental wellbeing and career development of nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals in their ecosystem through the introduction of the Ingenovis Health ACT program.
To design and deliver this industry-leading program, Ingenovis Health drew on a wealth of experience from across the organisation – particularly frontline caregivers – and followed a philosophy of listening and caring.
Serving others in the healthcare industry at Ingenovis Health
In recent years, the healthcare landscape has changed, as have the conditions for providers, adding to the burden of unparalleled mental stress experienced by all health and social care staff.
To care for the providers in the midst of this strain, leaders like Bart Valdez, CEO of Ingenovis Health, recognise that that means the staffing industry needs to change as well, providing enhanced care that may not have been necessary before on such a wide scale.
"Adaptability is the most important quality in a leader," says Valdez.
And it is this attribute that Valdez became a firm proponent of when Fastaff and U.S. Nursing, the two brands he was running, received their first COVID-related orders in February 2020. Immediately following this, orders began to escalate rapidly; meanwhile, quarantine and isolation mandates started sweeping across the US, as they did throughout the rest of the world.
"We had to quickly move from an office-based support team to fully remote, while still fulfilling 3-4 times our regular order volume. It meant having to rapidly adapt to new working conditions amid a massive escalation of business."
Valdez, who has honed his leadership and business skills across the healthcare, human capital and healthcare innovation industry, leads a family of six brands under the Ingenovis Health family umbrella, designed to meet the expanding needs of contingent workforce solutions at a time when demand is high and supply is at its lowest.
Acknowledging that the healthcare system was fragile prior to COVID-19, Valdez nevertheless notes that there was no way to predict how a worldwide pandemic would decimate an already-precarious clinical workforce. "There's been a chronic shortage for many years," says Valdez. "Then, COVID-19 hit; it exposed and accelerated all those weaknesses throughout the system."
Ingenovis Health Executives like Denise Triba, Chief Human Resources Officer, found they had to adapt multiple systems and provide enhanced benefits for both staff and patients while in the eye of the pandemic’s storm. Now, however, they are fully committed to the implementation of the ACT program and its aim to help providers grow, thrive and advance in their careers.
"I believe that you come to healthcare to make a difference through being able to serve others," says Triba. "That's been the case whether I've been in large healthcare systems as a healthcare administrator or in a human resources role.
“The purpose of the ACT program is to provide the industry’s best employee experience for healthcare providers, but we also want to inspire a movement that raises standards of support and career development across the profession, as well as attract new talent.”
Now, Triba serves healthcare professionals like Fastaff ICU RN Lydia Mobley, who was drawn to nursing at the prospect of being able to care for her ageing grandparents and having the flexibility to work nights.
"I worked three jobs to put myself through community college," explains Mobley. "It was important to me to find a career that allowed me to work nights. The biggest factor, however, was that I wanted to learn to be able to take care of my grandparents as they got older."
Even Mobley's role in the U.S. Navy didn't compare to serving on the frontline during the COVID–19 pandemic.
ACT: Advocacy, Career and Tools for healthcare professionals
During the pandemic, Ingenovis Health was forced to expand rapidly to meet the escalating need for nurses, physicians and other allied health providers. In a few short months, Ingenovis Health doubled its workforce at the height of the pandemic and supported more than 10,000 nurses across 48 states, including as far north as Alaska.
Unfortunately, the aftermath of the pandemic has illuminated the shrinking clinician workforce and exacerbated the challenges of expanding the pipeline of new nurses while retaining current clinical professionals.
Coupled with the limitations of educational opportunities and facilities, the pressure experienced by healthcare professionals stationed at the patient's bedside has created a challenging environment – a point that Mobley reiterates.
"The burnout from COVID-19 was pretty traumatic," she agrees. "The number of deaths we saw – and are still seeing – is unprecedented." Fortunately for Mobley, she was able to seek treatment to help cope with the trauma, but not every healthcare worker is as lucky.
"I still see a therapist," Mobley continues. "It makes me sad to know that not all healthcare workers out there have someone who knows what it's like inside hospitals."
In response to experiences such as Mobley's, Ingenovis Health launched the aforementioned ACT (Advocacy. Career. Tools) program, designed to provide clinicians with the tools and resources they need to grow, flourish, and advance their careers.
The ACT program offers Ingenovis Health healthcare professionals more than the typical offerings by focusing on five critical areas of professional growth and well-being, which include wellness and retention; training, coaching and development; achievement and recognition; service and support; and inspiring a movement.
The company retained an expert clinical advisor and engaged frontline clinicians, including Mobley, to serve as industry voices offering first-hand insights to shape meaningful program benefits.
Ingenovis Health's ACT program began with establishing listening posts with the aim of obtaining feedback on the challenges that clinicians face on a day-to-day basis.
"We can help them manage through multiple stages of their careers by being their partner to meet career or lifestyle goals," explains Valdez. "It's about developing the tools they'll need to manage and thrive."
As a Voice of the Clinician, Mobley is a direct connection to frontline nurses. Whether through one-on-one discussions or social media monitoring, Mobley plays an essential role in helping to identify and develop solutions.
"I talk with my peers to gather insights and perspectives on how Ingenovis Health can support them in ways that are meaningful to their lives," Mobley explains.
To this, Triba adds: "Within the Ingenovis Health ACT program is the thoughtful listening-and-learning component; the voice of the nurse is critical to that."
The Ingenovis ACT program leverages listening and data collection from frontline workers to better understand retention and attrition factors. This helps providers to prioritise the efforts that will yield the most significant impact. It incorporates tools and resources ranging from mental health support to financial counselling, further education and advocating for critical issues impacting the profession.
In addition, the company is introducing new and advanced programs supporting clinicians' career development to help workers gain the training they need to reach the next level. Ingenovis Health hopes this will encourage professionals to overcome the challenges in their roles.
"We're going to be hearing what the challenges are from healthcare workers and then building a game plan to meet their career and lifestyle objectives," said Valdez. "ACT is a multi-pronged approach."
But ACT is not just for Ingenovis Health professionals. The company views the initiative as an imperative for the entire healthcare industry. If it successfully keeps more healthcare workers at the bedside, it will have a ripple effect across the industry.
"We hope to inspire others to do their part, because now is the time for every company to lean in and be part of the solution," adds Valdez.
Ingenovis Health is an organisation that helps healthcare professionals manage their wellbeing, define their career paths and inspire others to support healthcare providers in a better way, transforming the industry and attracting new talent.
"It's the core of who we are," agrees Triba. "Lydia is a great example of one of our clinicians who provides us with information about what's on the minds of healthcare professionals. Based on that information, we can then build a program that addresses those concerns and supports those needs."
Triba believes that, without having an active listening component, the company would be disconnected.
Mobley agrees that ACT will not only help nurses by offering a wide variety of benefits, such as mental health counselling and career advancement, but it will also help all healthcare workers to encourage other staffing companies and healthcare systems to improve working environments and support of clinicians.
In short, the aim is to inspire transformational change across all facets of the healthcare industry.
"Even bringing awareness to topics like nurse-patient ratios or violence in the workplace is important, because people outside the medical field do not generally discuss those things," says Triba.
Ingenovis Health is ready for these difficult discussions with healthcare professionals, knowing it will help to make the sector stronger.
But the company can’t do it alone.
Leadership in healthcare
Ingenovis Health is one of the US's largest healthcare workforce solutions providers and has experienced significant growth since its inception. According to Valdez, there's only one way to bring an organisation together quickly and successfully – and that’s to have an incredible team.
"I've built a leadership team that includes members from within the company and from outside the industry, all of whom are focused on delivering innovation and executing initiatives with total commitment. The team is the key to our success."
Valdez believes that having a team that possesses clarity around objectives, strategy, and their overall role in helping to execute it is critical. Yet, despite his range of experiences, Valdez credits the COVID-19 pandemic with teaching him more about the role of a leader.
"I know it's odd to quote Mike Tyson in a professional interview, but he said that you can have a great boxing plan when you go into a fight, but once somebody punches you in the face, the plan goes completely haywire. Here, with COVID-19, it punched the entire industry in the face. Quite frankly, it punched the entire world in the face – and nobody had a plan."
With this new reality of COVID-19 and potentially new strains portending an indefinite change to work environments for healthcare providers, Valdez’s plan is to punch back with better tools, resources and a career plan for the betterment of the providers and the uninterrupted delivery of quality patient care.