What’s the Cure for the Health Care Hiring Crisis?

By Roy Maurer Jan 5, 2017

Carol McDaniel, director of talent acquisition at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

The demand for health care services is expected to swell in the coming years at the same time that the supply of health care providers is decreasing, creating a critical talent shortage. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges' Center for Workforce Studies, there will be 45,000 too few primary care physicians—and a shortage of 46,000 surgeons and medical specialists—in the next decade.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing claims that nurses will also be in short supply.

Several factors are driving this gap, including the impact of the Affordable Care Act's provision of expanded coverage, aging Baby Boomers with increased medical needs, rising average life expectancy, caregivers reaching retirement age and more awareness of jobs with an appealing work/life balance—which can be hard to achieve in some health care roles.

Employers are already seeing evidence of the skills shortage, saying that the most difficult part of their recruiting process is finding qualified candidates.  

Carol McDaniel, director of talent acquisition at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, a pediatric hospital located in St. Petersburg, Fla., discussed with SHRM Online these difficulties, the necessity of building strong talent pools and the importance of workplace flexibility.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Flexible Work Arrangements]

SHRM Online: There is a lot written about the lack of qualified health care professionals. Have you witnessed this in your experience?

McDaniel: First, I would say that the method of health care delivery has changed in the past five to seven years. Health care is changing in response to patient needs. That means the delivery model of health care is much changed. It isn't just about bringing the patients to the hospital, but also being able to care for patients in the geographical areas they live in. This means being able to have our teams of professionals in areas that may or may not be close to a big city or metropolitan area. [The hospital operates several outpatient care centers in the region.] This lends to a different expectation of what is a qualified health care worker. I see the need for more experience as it relates to technology [and] being service-oriented and flexible. Being able to utilize mobile services and web tools like Google Hangouts to help facilitate a treatment plan are important skills candidates will need.

And this applies for all levels, from physicians and advanced practice providers to medical assistants. There are more opportunities available in areas outside of our main hospital in our outreach centers. These areas may not be densely populated with the candidate pool we need. That means that when we are recruiting for those areas we have to consider that our applicant pool may be smaller, and that [applicants] need to be more resourceful, well-versed in the technologies we use, and have the flexibility to move to other centers or locations as our volumes change. We may need to be creative in how we design compensation for these workers or look at how we can develop the talent that is there to meet the requirements for licensure and [to provide] the acute care that may be needed for the patient population.

That is not always easy so additional incentives may be needed, or some added training as part of the overall onboarding. Often times [a health care professional will] work as the only nurse or medical technician in that clinic, so being able to troubleshoot a technical issue or do administrative functions while still providing patient care is a must.

SHRM Online: What's the biggest challenge you face in recruiting health care professionals?

McDaniel: One of the biggest challenges is specialized experience. At Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, critical care pediatric experience is required for a large majority of our positions, and that talent pool is small. The best of the best are [already] working, and our challenges are to source them and sell them on our organization.

SHRM Online: How do you do that?

McDaniel: We are fortunate that our name brand does attract a very high-level candidate, however we still partner with colleges for our advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to ensure we have a strong talent pool. We continually recruit through our talent communities that we've established, and we train new grads from our specific residency and fellowship programs.

SHRM Online: Is technical experience or cultural fit more important for hiring in the health care field?

McDaniel: I do think there are more requirements for technical experience today based on the role of the health care provider. That will continue. However, I'm someone who stands behind the thought that there are skills that can be taught and there are those that are innate. A strong cultural fit in a candidate will build the retention rate. Employees will be happier in the workplace and with their co-workers, and all of that speaks to a great patient experience, which impacts the bottom line. Cultural fit is very important here at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

SHRM Online: How do you assess for cultural fit in your recruiting process?

McDaniel: We have implemented pre-employment assessments to help [discern] that fit, as well as trained our recruiters and managers to be able to identify key attributes that lend to good cultural fits.

SHRM Online: Which benefits do candidates care about the most?

McDaniel: Most definitely work/life balance and flexibility in their schedules. While the salary is important, most would rather have more flexibility day-to-day to be with their families, so the paid-time-off policies are often a topic during the interview process. With the needs of the patient first, it is difficult to have flexibility on the clinical side, so the nonclinical side has more flexibility. However, due to the nature of our work, it is a challenge to work remotely. It is really difficult to do but the departments work out flexible time solutions with the staff.

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