What’s keeping health care HR professionals up at night?

The numbers don’t lie. Job postings across the nation are on the rise as the economic recovery continues. In March, the unemployment rate was 3.6%, down from 4% in January of this year. That’s great news for both recruiters and candidates. But if you’re trying to fill openings in the health care sector, the struggle is real. As of November 2021, the number of Americans employed in the health care professions remains 2.7% lower than in February 2020, where it peaked pre-pandemic. Nursing, which remains in CareerBuilder’s top 5 in-demand professions, is the exception here.

So, what’s the holdup in health care?

COVID-19 Changed Everything

It comes as no surprise that health care workers experience more stress than many other professions. After all, these empathetic professionals are accustomed to putting the welfare of others above their own. Then along came COVID-19, which added even more fatigue, stress, and burnout to their daily shifts, not to mention longer hours as a result of short-staffing and worker shortages.

While other sectors are implementing strategies to energize and motivate their workers, such as hybrid work schedules, work-from-home perks are not as easily implemented when your job requires person-to-person contact.

The Great Silver Retirement

Plenty has been written about the “Great Resignation” since the onset of the pandemic. The second biggest drain on health care resources is the mass exodus of Baby Boomers. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, 28.6 million Baby Boomers left the job market and retired in the third quarter of 2020. For perspective, that’s 3.2 million more Baby Boomers than those who retired in the same quarter of 2019. In a recent study conducted by Elsevier, a staggering 47% of health care workers in the United States report that they plan to leave their current jobs by 2025.

Millennials Move Up

Geared to replace their retiring counterparts are a legion of Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003. To succeed in attracting and retaining this younger workforce, you have to first understand what motivates them. This multiculturally-aware generation wants to be a part of a workspace committed to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness, as well as one that is making a positive impact on society. What’s more, they want their employers to demonstrate that they value their employees through team building, team work, and mentoring opportunities.

Bowing Out

While many sectors are finally bouncing back from the pandemic, some are still struggling to fill lost positions. As noted in our March blog, Are teachers dropping out of the job market?, there is a clear labor crisis in the education sector, with demand rising by more than 2,600% since March 2021. In addition, 54% of teachers are likely to leave teaching within the next two years. But in health care, COVID-19’s impact is unparalleled. Seeing the effects of the pandemic first-hand has taken its toll: One in five health care workers have recently left their jobs.

So, how do you engage and inspire health care professionals?

Motivating the Motivated

Health care professionals are already highly motivated; many chose this career because they have a calling to help others. But a large number of doctors and nurses have expressed feeling undervalued. Investing in improved training and development can help remedy that. Feedback mechanisms and open dialogue allow workers to feel heard. Extra time off and flexible deadlines help alleviate some of the burnout providers are feeling.

Mental Health Matters

To try and stem the big medical exodus, many health care systems are beginning to offer retention bonuses, raises, and/or hazard pay. In addition, as CareerBuilder recently revealed, companies that list salaries attract 11 times more applications per job than those that don’t. Other ways you can attract and retain your health care workforce include implementing programs and checkpoints that address their very real mental health concerns:

● Hold daily meetings to provide timely information, listen to concerns, and learn what your staff need.

● Set up a buddy system in groups of two to support and look out for each other.

● Provide a safe space for in-person and virtual support groups with a mental

health professional serving as a facilitator.

● Assign a behavioral health nurse to conduct rounds to check in on staff

members, especially those stationed in COVID-19 intensive care units and acute

care units.

● Form listening groups, set up text or email suggestion boxes, and make

leadership visits.

● Treat your staff to meals and snacks and provide self-care gift bags.

Most of all, to keep your health care workforce engaged, make sure they are aware that their contributions and their presence matter.

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