What COVID-19 is Doing to Healthcare Hiring

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May 12, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

As COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, continues to spread throughout the country, the dramatic rise in hospitalizations has put enormous pressure on healthcare organizations to mobilize existing staff and fill positions quickly. According to research by LinkedIn, healthcare job postings in the U.S. have increased by 35% since January, as hospitals and health systems seek more nurses, infection control specialists, lab technicians, and other professionals.

While other industries are facing furloughs and mass layoffs, healthcare organizations are going to great lengths to hire staff across a range of job categories. However, even as the demand for talent persists, healthcare leaders must continue to be mindful of factors that will impact both hiring and ongoing talent management plans. Here are four hiring challenges healthcare leaders must consider and address in the midst of the ongoing pandemic:

1. A surge in clinical and non-clinical hiring

It’s easy to see how the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the need for more physicians, nurses, and clinical support staff. Positions that provide direct patient care are clearly necessary to handle the rise in emergency room visits and hospitalizations. However, there are also other, perhaps less visible, positions in demand. In addition to doctors and nurses, COVID-19 has created a need for patient transporters, respiratory specialists, and intensive care staff. Phone support employees, janitors, and kitchen staff are also a critical part of the broad team of professionals required to provide optimal care to patients and members of the public.

Increased recruitment activity not only puts a strain on already busy recruiters but also shines the spotlight on screening and onboarding processes. Healthcare organizations seeking to keep up with the pace of hiring demand will need to review existing hiring processes and make sure recruitment staff are positioned to pivot and dedicate resources where they’re needed most.

2. The need to hire and onboard quickly

With new coronavirus cases and deaths increasing daily, healthcare organizations need to hire quality talent, fast. Because screening is a critical component of healthcare hiring, it’s important to have a screening program in place that prioritizes efficiency without sacrificing quality. Even during times of crisis, healthcare employers need to avoid hiring individuals that appear on exclusion or debarment lists or who could otherwise pose a risk to patient health and safety.

Many hospitals are already struggling to overcome regulations and other requirements that can slow hiring during this critical time. Some states—including hot spots such as New York, California, and Washington—have relaxed licensing requirements temporarily, allowing retirees and medical professionals from other states to provide help where it’s needed. Healthcare employers can also take action by reviewing their existing background screening programs and identifying opportunities to streamline the process. For example, for certain critical care positions, employers may consider omitting reference interviews or verification of licenses unrelated to the candidate’s position, both of which may be time-consuming and could slow down screening and hiring.

3. Baby boomers

Many critical care roles are staffed by baby boomers (individuals currently aged between 56-74), but they are retiring in increasing numbers. For example, research has revealed an estimated 70,000 registered nurses retire each year. It’s also worth noting that the problem of baby boomer retirement in healthcare is further exacerbated by the fact that baby boomers, because of their age, are at higher risk for contracting coronavirus.

Planning for the talent shortage created by retiring baby boomers is critical for maintaining high-quality continuity of care. To remain optimally staffed during times of crisis and calm, healthcare organizations will need to identify novel ways to hire, develop, and retain talent. Healthcare leaders can find success by developing strategies for attracting the new generation of talent, improving candidate experiences, and creating training and development opportunities for less-experienced hires.

4. Non-employee talent

Beyond direct hiring, there is an urgent need for contingent healthcare workers to meet the short-term demands presented by COVID-19. For example, hospitals in need are offering highly attractive packages to draw traveling nurses—packages include housing stipends, doubled pay rates, and extended contracts—to keep up with growing demand for nursing care. Even though recruitment of non-employee talent is a must during the pandemic, healthcare employers can’t afford to hire individuals that could expose the organization to increased risk for patient injury or death, lawsuits, or loss of accreditation. For the protection of patients and employees, hospitals and health systems must screen temps, visiting nurses, and other contingent staff to the same standard as other hires in the organization.

Temporarily expanding the healthcare workforce doesn’t have to result in increased hiring risk. Healthcare employers can screen contingent workers effectively by incorporating those individuals into the existing background screening program, rather than relying on a third-party agency or staffing firm, which may not apply the same standards. By working with a reputable background screening provider, healthcare organizations can gain peace of mind knowing that all hires, whether temporary, permanent, or contract, are being screened to the same level of quality.

Tackle COVID-19 hiring challenges

COVID-19 has rapidly transformed the healthcare landscape, creating a widespread need for talent on many fronts. At a time when so many depend on healthcare providers, perhaps more than ever before, hospitals and health systems are faced with hiring challenges that require quick and thoughtful action. By taking steps that will reduce risk and improve the efficiency and quality of hiring, screening, and onboarding processes, healthcare organizations will be well-equipped to weather the ongoing COVID-19 storm.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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