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Demand is high for healthcare workers while labor numbers stagnate

Hospitals are at an inflection point and are focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of staff, says recruiting consultant.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Photo: skynesher/Getty Images

Employment numbers for April showed little change in healthcare jobs or in any sector of the economy except for leisure and hospitality, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in figures released on May 7.

A boost in 21,000 jobs in ambulatory healthcare services was offset by the loss of nurses in nursing care facilities, where an estimated 19,000 positions were lost.

Since February 2020, as the pandemic took hold in the United States, healthcare employment is down by 542,000 positions.

$300 BONUS CHECKS TO BLAME?

Some blame some of the lackluster job numbers on the $300 weekly bonus checks provided by the American Rescue Plan. Combined with unemployment benefits, the total funds for those making around $30,000 a year could add up to more than what they would earn by returning to the workforce.

Governors in Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina have said they will cancel the $300 benefit in their states starting in June, according to c|net.

President Joe Biden said Monday, "The law is clear. If you're receiving unemployment benefits and you're offered a suitable job, you can't refuse that job and just keep getting unemployment benefits."

The checks are slated to end on Labor Day, September 6.

On Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen downplayed the effect of the additional jobless aid on the willingness of the unemployed to seek work, according to AP.

Mitul Modi, a senior client partner for Global Healthcare Services for management consulting firm Korn Ferry, said he hasn't seen the bonus as a factor for clients and that his firm works to fill all hospital positions, from custodian to CEOs.

DEMAND "ACROSS THE BOARD"

The demand for all healthcare jobs is much greater than the number of people available to fill the positions, according to Modi.

"Demand is across the board," Modi said. "Healthcare was already facing a talent crisis before the pandemic." 

The pandemic exacerbated the workforce shortage. While many employees outside of healthcare were able to change their work environment from office to home, frontline workers saw no break. Hospitals are living with the results now. 

Many physicians and nurses have suffered burnout and are retiring sooner rather than later, Modi said. Nurses found they could make more money by becoming traveling nurses. Physicians realized they could leave the hospital or practice and use their skills working outside of the provider setting.

"Healthcare is no longer the place they want to be, because it's too much," Modi said. "This is true from janitors to physicians, to the C-Suite."

Hospitals are at an inflection point, Modi said. This is seen in a renewed focus by executives in the mental health and wellbeing of their people. Ten hospital and health system CEOs recently formed the CEO Coalition and created a Declaration of Principles to protect their healthcare workforce.

It isn't just about salary, Modi said. Hospitals need to compete when it comes to the value proposition for employees, looking at what is important to staff, whether that's working locally, having a flexible schedule or creating an environment where people want to go to work.

Executives are also being more careful in the hiring process as recruiting the wrong people, and the resulting turnover, can end up costing 35 times more what they think they're spending.

"They think they're spending $5 million, when it is $185 million," Modi said.

"A lot of human resources are thinking about the workforce, where they are heading," Modi said. "A lot of organizations are thinking smarter about the value proposed."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com