It’s a good time to apply for a job in healthcare.
Per the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, job numbers, across the board are up—but there have been particularly notable gains in the healthcare industry. But despite—or perhaps because of—some of the lowest unemployment numbers in decades, many hospitals and health plans are struggling to attract and maintain quality employees. As noted in a 2017 Leaders for Today survey, there is “unprecedented” employee turnover among hospitals and other healthcare organizations—for both clinical and non-clinical staff. Joseph Parente, a principal with KPMG’s Management Consulting Practice who works specifically with provider and payer organizations, says this not surprising.
“These results are a couple years old, but they are pretty representative of what we’re seeing in the industry even now,” says Parente. “The Leaders for Today survey found that more than one-third of employees were planning to leave their hospital within two years. Nearly 70% said they’d be leaving in the next five years. And, although we talk a lot about physician and nursing shortages these days, it’s not just clinical staff who are looking to leave their positions. The survey also found that, when asked if they plan to leave their current job, it’s non-clinical administration staff that are most likely to say yes.”
The downstream effects of this kind of employee turnover results in the sort of vicious cycle that leads to even more employee dissatisfaction and turnover, says David Wilkins, chief strategy officer for HealthcareSource, a healthcare talent management firm, in Woburn, Massachusetts.
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“With so many people leaving, healthcare organizations will have a hard time attracting new, qualified employees because of the existing gaps,” he says. “When people are working understaffed, and they don’t have the right team to help support their work, it leads to a more challenging workday, more responsibilities, longer hours, and increased stress. With so many other opportunities outside of healthcare, people have a choice—and they are choosing positions that will allow them a better work/life balance.”
So, given this kind of “seller’s market,” how can healthcare organizations better recruit and retain experienced staff? The key, experts say, is to focus on ways to improve employee satisfaction for employees at all levels.
Take a hard look at technology
Numerous studies now suggest that clinical staff, in particular, are experiencing a high rate of burnout—and many of them blame different information technology (IT) platforms, such as electronic health record (EHR) systems for those frustrated feelings. But Parente says it’s not just doctors and nurses who are aggravated by the various systems they need to interact with.
“They are being asked to use a lot of different technologies that are really cumbersome and out-of-date. It’s not just EHRs, though those are frustrating—some of the health plan systems are even more staid and difficult to use,” he says. “It’s a problem when an employee can go home, use a computer or smart phone to easily order food or clothing but have to go through dozens of onerous steps just to restock surgical supplies at work. They want to have more of the same kind of easy-to-use experience at work that they can get at home.”