The safety of a health care facility is completely dependent upon the competency of its staff.

This may seem like an obvious observation, but this is a challenge health care organizations face every day. They must provide life-saving care to their patients while also simultaneously advocating for their employees' competence and well-being. If one of these areas slips, the other one suffers. And when the lives of patients are in your hands, your facility cannot afford not to prioritize competency-based staffing.

The Challenges of Prioritizing Staff Competencies

Managing staff competencies is a complex, yet critical, task that involves ensuring that a facility's employees have the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to administer the quality of care patients require. Here are some of the most notable challenges health care organizations face when it comes to competency-based staffing:

  1. Competency Assessments: Assessing staff competencies can be a time-consuming process, and the current staffing crisis makes finding the time to check in with employees more difficult. Health care organizations must invest in the time and resources they need to closely monitor their staff so they can identify any shortcomings and provide the necessary interventions early.
  2. Training and Development: Health care staff must receive ongoing training and development opportunities to keep up with the ever-changing landscape and regulations of the health care space. This, again, requires that facilities dedicate time and resources to support their employees' growth and development.
  3. Staff Turnover: The health care industry is still dealing with ongoing staffing shortages. When staff members leave, their knowledge and expertise leave with them. As workers continue to quit their jobs, it's becoming more difficult to find certified staff to fill these open positions. This can lead to knowledge gaps, which decrease the quality of care and can negatively impact patient outcomes.

The health care industry is constantly evolving; health care facilities must ensure their staff is evolving at the same time.

Why Competency-Based Staffing?

Since staff competency impacts quality of care and patient outcomes, it's clear that competency-based staffing will be critical for the future of the health care industry. Here are some takeaways.

1. Standardizing competencies creates safer work environments.
The goal of every health care organization is to keep their patients safe. When all staff members have the same set of skills and knowledge, it reduces the chance of errors or miscommunications throughout the team, which decreases any mistakes that can disrupt a patient's diagnosis, treatment, or recovery. Standardization also ensures that patients receive the same level of care regardless of the staff member providing it. Health care providers can develop standardized competency assessments and use them to evaluate staff members' skills and knowledge.

2. Communicating competencies allows for more opportunities for career advancement.
When staff members know what competencies they need to develop to advance in their careers, they are more motivated to learn and improve their skills. By providing opportunities for staff members to develop their skill sets, health care providers can create a culture of continuous learning and development. This can also help with staff retention, as employees are more likely to stay with an organization that invests in their professional growth.

3. Competency-based staffing prepares facilities for possible audits.
Competency-based staffing can ensure that health care providers are ready for any number of audits and inspections. The Joint Commission, for example, requires that health care organizations demonstrate that their staff is competent to perform their job duties. By centralizing competency-based staffing, health care providers can easily provide evidence of their staff's competency to auditors. This can also reduce the amount of time and effort required to prepare for audits.

4. Digitizing the process enhances ROI.
Digitizing the competency process can bring a significant return on investment (ROI) for health care providers. By automating competency assessments and tracking, providers can reduce the amount of time and resources required to manage staff competencies. Digitization also ensures that all staff members are evaluated consistently and fairly. Additionally, digitization can provide real-time data on staff competencies, which can help providers identify areas where staff members need additional training or support.

Melissa PowellPeople should be at the center of everything you do. First and foremost, that means that facilities must be committed to the physical and emotional well-being of their patients. But to maintain that commitment, it also means that facilities must care about the performance, experience, development, and overall well-being of their staff. Incompetent staff can be incredibly dangerous to your facility and your patients. For that reason, competency-based staffing should not only be a standard within your organization, but it should also be the standard across the entire health care sector as well.

Melissa Powell is the COO of Genesis Healthcare, a network of 250 facilities across 22 states.