Three Trends for the Future of Healthcare Workforce

August 25, 2022
Dr. Dan Weberg, PhD, RN

The future of the workforce will be defined by a few north stars.  In order for leaders to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of clinicians and patients, we must study these and disenthrall ourselves from the ways of the past. 

Healthcare will be driven by these three things:

  1. Everyday life is the new context of care
  2. Personalized health experiences will be enabled by technology
  3. Integrated care teams will be linked to people, not places

We have seen these 1 and 2 start to shape our care experiences.  At several large systems, virtual visits are outnumbering the traditional in person visits for care (  We have seen policy supporting the use of telehealth and other remote monitoring technology emerge as a necessity during the pandemic becoming a mainstay of the way healthcare is delivered post-COVID.  

We have also seen the increase of apps, interventions, and lifestyle modification trends shifting the experience of healthcare from doctors visits to pings, nudges, reminders, data, and tracking in everyday life.  Jokingly, you may soon walk into the grocery store and be told what aisles to avoid based on your medical history… Sorry, no more Oreos.

These first two north stars have been set in motion and we can relate to how those might manifest in our work and our future.  However, for healthcare leaders faced with tremendous challenges in the nursing workforce, we must focus on the third.

Link Integrated Care Teams to People, Not Places

When we were researching the future trends in healthcare and we landed on this topic, the team began to laugh.  Based on our current experience and the stories we heard from other clinicians, the idea that a care team could be intimately linked, coordinated, scheduled, and deployed to deliver care outside a physical location was beyond comprehension, yet we knew it was the only way to optimize a broken and manual system to meet the needs of our patients.  As the conversation evolved, we began to explore what this might look like for the everyday nurse manager and CNE.  In those discussions, we came up with two themes that might right size a diminishing nursing workforce and bring joy back to practice.

Theme 1: Decoupling Nurses from Units and Service Lines

What if we staffed hospitals not by unit but by patient need? For example, instead of hiring that experienced ICU nurse into 4 north and holding them in 4 north for the rest of their career, building a culture in which when they leave 4 north to float, they loathe the system, and developing that nurse to only learn 4 north ways of work, we do something different. What if we inventoried the entire clinical staff for their passions, career goals, clinical competencies and skills and matched those to the patient care needs across the system? By doing this, we can free the siloed clinical workforce to actually work as a system to deliver needed care. Maybe the ICU nurse is needed in the ICU that day because the patient needs that skill, and maybe other days the ICU has a lower acuity and an ICU nurse is needed in the ED or in the outpatient setting for teaching and follow ups. By thinking about the workforce as a system and not a service line, we can optimize the talent and joy of clinicians across the system. The monotony of work is disrupted, variety and learning accelerates, and we may be able to take a bite out of the mass exodus of clinicians occurring across the world. This is one example of a way we can link clinicians to people, not places.

Theme 2: Integrated Teams

The other theme that emerged was around the idea that a more flexible work environment requires better communication, integrated teams, and a reconceptualization of clinical team care.  The current industrial model of work is that we hire our own team members, hope they work well together to produce care outcomes, and cringe when “outsiders” enter our domain.  This is most evident in how many systems treat travel nurses, short term help, and new employees.  They are seen as not worthy, or disruptive to the environment rather than enhancements.  In order for the system to truly optimize its workforce, there will always be a need for new and different talents to come in and out of teams more frequently than 12-hour shifts.  

Let's look at an example from Delta Airlines.  Delta created an app called “Crew” that allows individual flight attendants, ground crew, gate agents, pilots, and support teams to be connected seamlessly to each other as they are moved dynamically onto flights.  These team members may have never met, never worked together, but through transparent information supported by the app they are able to quickly learn about the skills of their fellow flight crew members (generating trust), communicate with each other around the flight (sharing information for fast decision making), and get information about the flight (align around the desired outcome).  

What if healthcare treated teams like this?  What if we used information to quickly align care team members around patient needs and outcomes instead of getting mad that we have a visitor on our unit.  

In almost every other industry, contingent labor is used to supplement the workforce as experts, not just warm bodies.  In healthcare, contingent labor is seen as a burden and evil instead of using this premium labor source as a vehicle for innovation and evolution.

Leaders can help shift the labor landscape from rejecting external help to seeing new ideas, new skills, new attitudes that emerge from travel nurses, new employees, and others as a source of excellence.  That travel nurse you have on your unit who has worked at the best hospitals on the planet could share best practices that might enhance your team and your care tenfold.  So use that knowledge.  You are paying for it.  We must challenge our outdated assumptions of work and teams in order to optimize a system that will be under-resourced for the foreseeable future.

Imagine the Future of Staffing with Trusted Works

Why not manage your workforce enabled by a technology that links clinical talent to the shift you need filled.  By using Trusted Works, you can automate your staffing by matching your clinical talent both internally and externally to the specific need of the shift or even the patient. 

In order to staff with a system approach, as opposed to a unit or transactional approach, nurse managers need to enable themselves with 21st century tech, not complicated spreadsheets. Trusted Works is a tool to give managers superpowers and staff differently. Learn more about Trusted Works at