Healthcare Staffing Remains Weak

It does not come as much of a surprise that U.S. healthcare organizations have struggled to attract and retain registered nurses and other critical-skill workers, but a new Watson Wyatt Worldwide study suggests that there has been minimal progress in the war for healthcare talent.

The study shows that more than two-thirds, or 69%, of the 110 healthcare providers surveyed reported having difficulty retaining critical-skill workers to a moderate or great extent. Across industries overall, only 43% of companies have similar retention problems.?

Retaining registered nurses is the most difficult staffing challenge facing healthcare providers, with 84% listing it among their top three staffing challenges, followed by pharmacists at 39% and rehab therapists at 33%.?

Stopping the Bleeding

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Why are people leaving healthcare? The study says voluntary turnover is hitting healthcare providers harder than other industries, with a median 14% voluntary turnover rate. They leave to relocate (47%), or because of lack of promotional opportunity (41%), or because of pay (33%).

Are healthcare organizations doing anything to reverse this problem? The survey shows that few employers are improving employee benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, or retiree medical benefits.

However, some healthcare organizations are adjusting pay levels, providing reimbursements and forgiving student loan payments, and implementing flexible work arrangements. Others are enhancing retirement benefit programs, with an improved match on retirement contributions.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.


1 Comment on “Healthcare Staffing Remains Weak

  1. I’ve worked most of my HR career in the Healthcare Industry, not to mention my wife is a clinician, multiple M.D. family members, etc. What I’ve seen from my experience is that the healthcare industry suffers from tunnel vision in a lot of areas but especially in the people factors. The typical healthcare “manager” started out working in a hospital straight out of nursing school and worked his/her way up over the years, never getting any experience in any other industry. The same goes with the Dr.s who work in these settings and even the administrators who mostly get their Master’s degrees in health administration etc. In other words, all they know is healthcare/hospital thinking and that hasn’t changed in the last 50 years or more. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, including employee’s expectations of an employer and a career have evolved significantly. The notion that healthcare is a “calling” and that nurses should just accept the long hours, being on call constantly, sleep deprivation and rude treatment at the hands of more senior clinicians and, of course, at the hands of Dr.s just doesn’t work anymore. The rest of corporate America has been busy trying to make the work experience more positive for their employees in order to better attract and retain them but the healthcare industry (hospitals specifically) has done very little (with a few notable exceptions). I’ve heard experienced nurses, and even physicians, try to steer young wannabes away from healthcare as a career, not because of anything unpalatable within the core nature of healthcare, but mostly because of these cultural issues. In my, admitedly limited opinion, this is at the heart of looming crisis.

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