Hospitals & Facilities

Hospitals are competing with Big Tech and Big Retail to hire new workers

The number of healthcare professionals who’ve left the workforce is “staggering,” said one HR exec at San Antonio-based Methodist Healthcare System.
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· 3 min read

The healthcare industry is hemorrhaging workers.

More than 4 million workers left the industry in the first eight months of this year alone, according to data released in October from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and previously reported BLS numbers. That equates to about 20% of the entire workforce.

More than one in four who leave blame burnout for their decision, according to a survey of 1,000 healthcare workers conducted in April by Notable.

The exodus has HR executives in healthcare scrambling to adapt their approach to better retain employees and attract new talent—a top-of-mind issue for attendees at HR Healthcare, which was held in Austin in late October.

The number of healthcare professionals who’ve left the workforce is “staggering,” said Barry Burns, vice president of HR at San Antonio-based Methodist Healthcare System.

“The people that are still working with us have different expectations,” Burns said of workers’ pandemic-driven desires for more flexibility in their work schedules and stronger connections with coworkers and leaders. “So you have to get creative: How are you going to staff? How are you going to hire? It really comes down to building relationships with your workforce.”

Flexibility is money

When it comes to retaining and attracting staff, hospitals are no longer just competing with one another or with pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, which have been expanding the healthcare services they offer. They’re also up against Big Tech giants Amazon, retailers like Walmart, and other non-traditional healthcare employers, said Vicki Cansler, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta.

That means health systems have to be more nimble, like with scheduling. Cansler stressed the importance of flexible-staffing arrangements, especially for clinical staff, which would give employees more options for the hours and days they work.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.

“If you don’t offer that flexibility, somebody else will,” she said.

Connecting in person—but not forcing a return to the “office”

Even as some talent execs bemoaned the decline of in-person work and emphasized the need to restore connection, executives stressed that a return to the hospital shouldn’t be forced.

And yes, many healthcare employees are able to work remotely, said Tiffiny Lipscomb, vice president of HR at Intermountain Healthcare.

The Salt Lake City-based health system’s remote ranks swelled to 10,000 workers at the height of the pandemic, she said—or about one in six of Intermountain’s 59,000 employees. And it’s not just the HR department that can work remotely. Some clinical positions, like radiologists reading images, can do work remotely, she said.

Nearly three years later, about 6,500 workers at Intermountain are still working remotely, Lipscomb said.

A digital-second (or first?) strategy

While many talent execs talked about the importance of in-person connection, Alen Brcic, chief people officer at Midwest-based Mercyhealth, emphasized that hospitals should also embrace technology in recruitment and focus on their “digital perception.”

“We are focusing on getting our story out there and sharing what is working,” Brcic said.

Ultimately, health systems need to stand out in an employee’s market—and do it at an affordable price, when many hospitals are strapped for cash.

“We really are trying to be strategic…cost-effective, data-driven, and mission-focused,” he said.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.