Healthcare recruiting has been challenging for years. Recruiters and employers worked to attract and retain talent in one of the fastest-growing sectors and the largest employer in the U.S. 2019 finished strong after a decade of growth for the healthcare market, with reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting healthcare to grow by 8.4 million jobs by 2028. The healthcare industry has long fueled the country’s economy, with it comprising an average of 12% of the U.S.’s workforce.
Early last year, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.4 million healthcare jobs were lost in the U.S. in April of 2020, a big jump from March’s total loss of 43,000 jobs. The most job losses were seen in dentist offices (503,000), physician offices (243,000), and other practitioner offices (205,000), as many closed or scaled back due to stay-at-home directives. A nationwide survey conducted in early March 2020 stated that only 29% of hospitals had a plan for how to isolate potential COVID-19 patients, and only 44% had distributed information to their employees on how to recognize and handle the virus.
As we moved into summer of 2020, the demand for frontline clinicians rose sharply. COVID-19 patients who needed to be hospitalized required specialized care, and roles like intensive care nurses and hospitalists (physicians who work in hospitals) more than doubled, while other nursing roles saw significant growth. Pressure was on recruiters to move faster to fill these open positions throughout 2020. Demand was high and many workers left employers or the industry altogether out of fear and concern for their own health and safety.
The Demand for Healthcare Workers One Year Into a Pandemic
The Health Resources and Services Administration predicts significant increases by 2030 in the demand for respiratory and physical and occupational therapists, among other allied health professions. The nursing shortage is even worse: National Center for Biotechnology Information data projects a gap of more than 510,000 registered nurses by 2030. These numbers only apply to positions requiring a degree and/or certification.
Going into the second quarter of 2021, demand for essential healthcare workers is still high, but has shifted from critical care to support staff for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Clinicians, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, as well as healthcare office support for large medical systems and chain pharmacies are in demand as they try to meet the public need for vaccinations and ongoing COVID testing. In some areas of the country, spikes in virus transmission is still putting a strain on hospital and healthcare systems.
How Recruiters Can Meet High Demand in Healthcare
The experience of the past year has fueled burnout in the healthcare industry that has led to accelerated retirement and attrition. This means that competition for healthcare workers will continue to be fierce and wages will stay high. Here are just a few areas to consider for your healthcare recruiting efforts:
Training to close the skills gap
Staff training is a powerful retention tool. Skills that can be difficult to find in the healthcare talent marketplace, particularly those that don’t require certification, could be taught through an in-house training program. Make your organization a place of learning as well as a place of work. This also allows you to cross-train current employees to fill gaps in care as they arise.
Expand the scope of recruitment
Hire for skills that support longevity and retention by seeking candidates who have soft skills like communication, collaboration and flexibility. These skills can translate from one industry to another and expanding the scope of your search for candidates can create a new talent pool for healthcare candidates.
Employer sponsored education credits
Healthcare systems short on nurses and other positions requiring a degree or certification can build an internal pool of qualified candidates by offering educational financial support for employees who wish to move into registered nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacist, and other roles that require educational credit. While tuition support is another expenditure for your company, the benefits in the long-term mean that you can create a pool of qualified candidates who are already familiar with your company and improves retention rates. Benefits and perks like tuition reimbursement create loyal employees.
Healthcare workers are in demand and companies rely on their HR and recruiting leaders to create a recruitment process that eliminates redundancies to allow qualified candidates the ability to start as soon as possible. Healthcare hiring tends to nearly always be high-volume, so operating quickly and efficiently is key for recruiting teams to not only reach candidates, but also to move them quickly from candidate to hire.