3 Key Employment Issues Affecting Healthcare in 2022 and Beyond

Senior Director of Marketing

Healthcare systems are still reeling from changes spurred by the pandemic, progression in healthcare technology, and evolving patient needs. But the healthcare industry isn’t immune to external trends in employment, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, supporting employee well-being, and providing a fair workplace culture and practices. 

Broader trends in employment affect how healthcare systems manage talent and deliver outstanding care to patients. Prepare to address these three employment issues to improve healthcare delivery at your organization.

Talent Pools Continue to Dwindle

Unemployment is at an all-time low across industries, but that shortage of talent is hitting healthcare especially hard. Hospitals around the United States continue to add healthcare jobs but struggle to fulfill them. Based on recent research, Mercer estimates that within the next few years (by 2026), some states will see a gap of 500,000 healthcare workers. To overcome this challenge, healthcare systems have to get creative with their hiring and training practices.

Be intentional about recruiting from specific groups that are often overlooked. These groups often bring different experiences and ideas to the workplace. By hiring veterans, for instance, you can build a stronger sense of mission and purpose, says Paul A. Dillon, Adjunct Instructor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and Owner at Dillon Consulting Services LLC. “Veteran leaders can educate non-veteran coworkers on the valuable leadership skills that veterans bring to the workplace,” he says.

Seek out partnership opportunities with local healthcare colleges and training programs. You can hire candidates with skills and aptitudes and help them achieve technical training along the way. This can help you move employees from less-skilled, lower-level positions, like nurse assistant, into more skill-dependent roles, such as licensed practical nurse.

Employees Struggle to Cope With Stress

Employees across the board are coming to terms with stress and mental health. But healthcare employees’ unique experience of working on the frontlines during the pandemic has caused more than stress: many healthcare employees have experienced significant trauma.

"The healthcare industry needs to recognize that employees can experience a deep emotional wound as they bear witness to intense human suffering,” says Barbara Rubel, Executive Director at Griefwork Center Inc. “Although it is not their fault, they may have regrets while facing ethical situations at work.”

To avoid burnout and care for your employees’ mental health, it’s important to give employees time to detach from work and process what they’ve experienced. Train managers to recognize signs of extreme stress and PTSD and to check in frequently with team members.

Equity Remains Challenging to Achieve

Employees from historically marginalized communities often receive unequal treatment compared to their peers. Pay gaps, for example, persist in healthcare. Despite making up more than half (67%) of the global healthcare workforce, women make up to 24% less than what men make, research from the World Health Organization found. Not addressing pay equity in your hospital system can alienate your potential workforce.

Employees in lower-level roles, like housekeeping, maintenance and nursing assistants, often feel undervalued, too, Brookings reports. That disparity is further compounded by the fact that many of these employees are members of historically marginalized groups.

Regularly audit your pay practices as well as other data that could point to inequities (such as who you promote or who gets first pick for shiftwork). Using demographic data, you can see where inequities exist in your organization so you can take steps to fix the problem.

Despite concerns over these employment trends, organizations across industries are learning that valuing employees and providing a positive experience goes a long way in overcoming employment challenges. “As healthcare organizations start planning for 2023 and beyond, take time to think about company culture and what they have to offer employees,” says Natalie Fell, a contributor at Step By Step Business. “Companies who genuinely care about their staff and make them a priority will attract and retain top talent.”