Healthcare Hiring is Slow and Steady — But Attrition Hurts | Phenom

Bambi Grundwerg

August 30, 2022

In August, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released a generally healthy outlook on hiring across all but two industries — healthcare was one of them. The healthcare industry showed modest gains in hiring but still remained below pre-COVID levels. Healthcare also saw close to 600,000 professionals voluntarily leaving their jobs — on top of already diminished staffing levels. 
 

While some clinical professionals are retiring or just burnt out, many are moving to other healthcare roles, such as agency-based travel nursing. Others are simply moving to new facilities or healthcare networks for better benefits, higher salaries, and improved shift flexibility. (Remember that point, we’ll be coming back to it.) Regardless of why nurses leave or move, turnover can disrupt patient satisfaction and quality of care. 
 

It can also be expensive. The average cost of turnover for a bedside Registered Nurse (RN) is estimated to exceed $46,000. These are additional costs on top of salaries that can include recruiting, onboarding, certification verification, and even the incremental expenses of paying a traveling nurse while hiring is underway. The time to backfill RN positions is lengthy — approaching or exceeding 87 days depending on specialization and location. This means those incremental costs start racking up quickly. 
 

So how are healthcare facilities managing those rising staffing costs and abundance of open roles?
 

There’s No Band-Aid Solution 
 

Many healthcare organizations have been forced to offset that unfortunate combination by limiting the number of intake patients to maintain required practioner-to-bed ratios while others are taking direct staff expense reduction measures. These can include cutting non-clinical roles, like revenue cycle management, or outsourcing roles such as IT and tech support. 
 

For those significantly impacted by staff shortages and the rising cost of hiring clinical professionals, more drastic measures are needed to keep organizations afloat. These unfortunately include reducing or eliminating specialized services that directly impact their communities. 
 

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, scores of hospitals nationwide have been forced to temporarily close ER departments, much-needed local urgent care centers, and even operating rooms, including Mass General and Brigham & Women's Hospitals in Boston. 
 

Williamston, N.C.-based Martin General Hospital has also closed its intensive care unit, and Memorial Hospital of Carbon County in Rawlins, WY, announced they will no longer be providing labor and child delivery services — causing expectant families to travel close to 100 miles for the nearest hospital-based delivery services. 
 

With closings happening far and wide, the healthcare industry needs to find viable solutions to its staffing challenges. 
 

Reducing Staffing Turnover with a Healthy Employee Experience
 

Covering staffing shortages with expensive per-diem professionals is not a healthy or long-term solution. However, healthcare organizations can remediate this gap with strong retention and employee engagement programs that keep clinical staff in their roles longer. 
 

For example, implementing an AI-powered talent marketplace can help boost engagement and retention by connecting employees with opportunities for learning, development, mentoring, and more in one central location. 
 

Leveraging AI and automation for internal mobility quickly became a key element for healthcare provider Mercy’s TA team as they started expanding their volume of hires and sought agility among staff members. Visibility into open opportunities and career growth became a great motivator for internal movement and is currently part of their larger retention strategy.
 

Another feature that’s instrumental to driving quality of hire includes referrals from existing employees. “Talent knows talent,” said Kayla Drady, Director of Talent Acquisition Strategy and Operations for Mercy, "and with Phenom, the referral process is quick, easy, and transparent." By acquiring and implementing an internal talent marketplace, Mercy was able to pivot its hiring strategy to fill critical roles while meeting evolving business needs. 
 


How to Build an Employee Engagement Program that Pays You Back Daily
 

Employee engagement goes beyond internal mobility opportunities. To truly engage and retain top talent, businesses must: 
 

  • Focus on what matters most to employees. Today, that includes the ability to continually up-level skills, discover new career opportunities, feel valued as individuals, and be unified in purpose. 
     
  • Give employees a voice and your ear. Conduct interviews, take pulse surveys, and analyze data collected by AI-driven tools like chatbots. Gather information on employee needs and preferences, then take action. 
     
  • Adapt strategies to meet evolving goals. Rapid changes in the clinical workplace have redefined employee challenges, including health and safety concerns, extended shifts, and unfamiliar departmental coverage. 
     
  • Select technology that strengthens and supports the experience. Features to look for include an AI-driven internal talent marketplace that promotes personalized learning and career development, career pathing, internal gigs, DE&I, and referrals.
     

Related: How Trilogy Health Services Quickly Hired for Hard-to-Fill Roles


Speaking of Pay-Back…
 

Let's revisit my earlier comment on clinical professionals who are job hopping. A strong employee engagement program is the number one defense against voluntary attrition, which can account for 27% or more of open nursing roles. 
 

Have you calculated the financial exposure generated by staff who simply want to work somewhere else? We’ve come across some useful estimates that can help you put numbers against this issue:
 

(# of open RN roles ÷ .27) x $46,000 = cost to fill RN jobs vacated voluntarily 
 

If you’ve got 100 open RN roles, that adds up to a whopping $1M of potentially controllable loss. These are just averages, but they highlight your potential exposure. To get even more granular on open-role expenses, you can add the incremental difference between your average RN daily salary and what you would be charged for a traveling, per-diem nurse for the 40 days you may need to fill that open role. Eye opening, isn’t it?
 

Invest in Employee Engagement to Combat Healthcare Attrition 
 

Healthcare hiring is moving slowly, and organizations across the country are forced to combat low staffing levels by cutting programs, closing departments, and even shutting their doors. 
 

By shifting hiring strategies to look toward internal talent mobilization, businesses in the healthcare industry can adjust to market shifts and fill critical roles faster. Leveraging AI-powered software, like a talent marketplace, allows businesses to streamline internal mobility, learning and development, and referral programs to better meet evolving business needs. 
 


 
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Bambi Grundwerg