Overcoming Top Healthcare Talent Acquisition Challenges

Senior Director of Marketing

Although the healthcare talent shortage has been looming for years now, it hit home last year during the height of the pandemic. In November, more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals acknowledged experiencing a severe worker shortage. 

Vaccine distribution offers hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but shortages in healthcare talent still present gaps to hospitals and healthcare systems moving forward. In-house human resources and talent acquisition professionals face a steep talent crisis, but creative staffing practices and an enhanced employee value proposition can help close the gap.

Here are some of the top talent acquisition challenges facing healthcare HR today and how to overcome them.

Safety Remains a Top Concern

Even with COVID-19 cases on the decline, candidates are still concerned about safety. Be mindful that it isn’t just employees who are at risk for COVID-19, but also their families. Hospitals and healthcare systems need to demonstrate awareness of employees’ health concerns and showcase measures they’re taking to protect their workforce. 

“A big part of recruiting now has to be your focus on the well-being of your employees,” says John Reaves Whitaker, Executive Vice President and Chief HR Officer at National Partners in Healthcare. Build a clear employee value proposition that includes information regarding health insurance packages and paid time off in the event of COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis. Expect candidates to ask about your initial and ongoing response to the pandemic, Whitaker says, when deciding whether to accept a job offer.

Workforce Shortages Complicate Hiring

Shortages among clinicians and staff were common before COVID-19, but fear of the virus and increasing retirement of long-term healthcare workers complicate existing challenges. Involve leadership in your talent retention and acquisition efforts, says Katie Niekrash, Vice President of The Execu|Search Group’s Healthcare division. Elevate talent acquisition to a strategic role, not just a transactional one. 

Focus as much on retention as on acquisition. “Keeping employees happy, engaged, and growing will help keep the number of open positions at a lower, more manageable level,” Niekrash says. Offer career paths, ongoing development, and mentorship opportunities to engage your current workforce. Prioritize appropriate staffing to achieve patient safety and create a better employee experience for your workforce.

Burnout Causes Gaps in Staffing

During the pandemic, burnout and mental strain have become a significant problem in the healthcare workforce. “Many healthcare professionals were assigned to COVID-19 units or worked hundreds of extra hours during the pandemic,” Niekrash says. “This has led to an exodus of many workers who feel they need to exit the healthcare world because of their mental health.”

Demonstrate the steps you’re taking to give employees dedicated time off to recover from being overworked during COVID-19. Re-evaluate your benefits package, and advertise new benefits that address mental health. Survey your workforce to see what benefits they really need. Offering mental health support, childcare benefits, or resources for financial wellness can increase overall well-being and help your employees prevent and combat burnout. “You're going to have to be really creative with what you offer your employees to let them know that you get it,” Whitaker says.

The key to attracting healthcare talent is understanding what healthcare workers want from their employers in 2021. Listening to your current workforce and the needs of workers on the market will help you develop an attractive and effective employer brand.

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