8 significant healthcare workforce trends

It's no secret the industry's labor force is possibly its most costly expense. But with the lack of professionals and a disconcerting future, the fears surrounding the healthcare labor force are extending beyond cost.

Clinton Wingrove, EVP and principal consultant at Pilat HR Solutions, thinks, though, lessons can be learned from the various issues industry leaders are facing. Whether its recruiting or training, or dealing with the incoming millennial workers, he outlines eight trends concerning the changing healthcare workforce. 

1. The retirement of the baby boomer generation and the lack of new talent. And this trend isn’t specific to healthcare, Wingrove said. “Many industries are facing some huge challenges, not least of which is seeing a serious increase in the number of older people - the baby boomers - backing out of the workforce.” He added issues arise when organizations, in particular those in the healthcare realm, have skilled senior people as opposed to “generalists.” “They’re looking to retain that experience,” he said. “So there’s a bit of tension there. You have people who are skilled managerial staff and are generalists who you can replace more easily, and then you have senior people.” Retaining experience is critical, said Wingrove, and in some fields, like healthcare, “we’re not seeing sufficient talent come through.”

2. The shortage of skilled health IT professionals. There’s no surprise a major trend in today’s workforce is the lack of IT professionals. “It seems as though we’re suffering a shortage of the very skilled talent and the highly skilled programmers, clinicians and technicians,” said Wingrove. “As we see healthcare continue, it’s not literally exponential, but as we see the sophistication of healthcare grow much faster than the economy, the need for highly skilled talent is going to increase and outplace the availability.” 

[See also: Workforce planning crucial to physician recruitment.]

3. An impending trend of significant turnover. At the moment, said Wingrove, the industry is seeing “almost a perfect storm.” “Because of the recession, we have a lot of people nervous and consequently staying in their jobs. But we’re not seeing an increase in salaries, and so, there’s growing evidence there is a latent dissatisfaction and people are questioning whether loyalty makes sense anymore.” Add to that evidence of a growing belief that when the economy picks up, we’re bound to see major turnover, continued Wingrove. “They think the grass is greener on the other side, and that concerns me because in healthcare in particular, skilled workforce and proven experience is highly valuable for efficiency reasons. I do feel this year or next we’ll see some serious churn of staff combined with a lack of high caliber new talent coming through.”

4. The undertrained millennial generation. In addition to the lack of new talent entering the healthcare workforce, Wingrove said serious underlying issues exist when it comes to the country’s educational system. “I’m convinced we’re not doing enough to drive up the caliber of the people who are exiting the educational system and [are coming] into the workforce,” he said. There are two areas he believes we’re falling short: the actual skill level of recent graduates, and failing to encourage college students to pursue the more technical fields. “Now, I think it’s better than it was,” Wingrove said. “But I don’t believe we’re driving it fast enough - demand is going to continue, for the foreseeable future, to outstrip supply.”

Continued on the next page. 

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