By Jeni Burckart, Tuition.io
Recruiting in our current atmosphere of low unemployment is a challenge to begin with. However, recruiting in the healthcare industry which currently boasts a 2.6 percent unemployment rate can be deemed almost impossible by some. In this piece, I set out to tackle the challenges of recruiting in healthcare during a period of record-breaking low unemployment and a new strategy to help meet those challenges.
1. Demand For Employees Is Higher Than Supply
America’s population is aging and the use of healthcare is growing rapidly. That means health systems are responsible for providing more services for more people than ever before. While at the same time colleges that prepare specialized graduates, such as nurses, aren’t able to raise the supply of graduates quickly enough to meet these increasing demands.
One solution many organizations are using to address this problem is to offer tuition reimbursement for specific education paths. Some hospitals even partner with a local college to offer the necessary classes at the hospital in the evening to help nurses with an associate degree obtain their bachelor’s degree in nursing over a longer period of time.
2. Employees Want Flexibility And Healthcare Isn’t Built For Flexibility
Recruiting and retaining talented staff is challenging because employees have the option to go anywhere that suits their needs best. Employees like flexibility but healthcare, and hospitals in particular, have very limited options for flexibility. Patient care requires 24/7 staffing to monitor and treat sick patients. That means even if a provider would love to drop their child off at school every morning, if they’re responsible for the patients in the ICU, it’s not going to happen. Someone must always be at the hospital. This lack of flexibility can wear on staff and can push them into other areas of healthcare like outpatient clinics or administrative roles or out of healthcare entirely.
Student loan repayment assistance can help reduce turnover. Existing healthcare partners of Tuition.io have seen a relative reduction of 21-48 percent in turnover* between eligible employees receiving student loan repayment assistance and those who don’t
3. Health Systems Are Ubiquitous
In a metropolitan area, healthcare workers will likely have several health systems to choose from. That makes it difficult to compete based on location alone. On the flip side health systems are in small towns in rural parts of the country too. That creates a problem of workforce distribution. Within the same state there are areas of workforce shortages and surplus. Rural health systems need to recruit primary care physicians and specialists to perform specific procedures. If unable to recruit these individuals, health systems are forced to forgo revenue and limit the local population’s access to healthcare.
Healthcare systems often compete for employees based on benefits. Student loan repayment assistance provides a competitive advantage as a relatively new but highly desirable benefit. Health systems offering this benefit can set themselves apart and attract new talent among numerous competitors.
4. Healthcare Requires A Highly Educated, Specialized Workforce But Wages Aren’t Keeping Up With The Cost Of That Education
You can’t be a nurse, a pharmacist, a physician, or any other specialized role in a health system without a college education. While other industries may face a changing education landscape, it’s unlikely healthcare will in the near future. Not many patients would want surgery from someone who has watched a few YouTube videos about surgery. That means healthcare staff is required to go through years of education to be able to perform patient care safely.
The average debt of physician graduates has increased by over $100,000 since 1991. The average wage of family practice physicians was $105,000 in 1989, when adjusted to 2018 dollars that’s an average salary of $190,000. Today the average annual salary of a family practice physician is $199,000. That represents very little growth in salary despite a growing burden of student loan debt.
Student loan repayment assistance is a benefit that solves employees’ immediate and pressing financial concerns. It helps address slow-growing wages despite the growing cost of college and helps employees deal with their student loan debt burden.
When the student loan repayment assistance contribution is coupled with financial wellness tools related to student loan debt, employees use employer sponsored contributions most efficiently. Tuition.io aggregates all of an employee’s student loan data in one place and guides them through student loan repayment best practices.
Health systems across the country struggle to provide safe patient care during ever growing healthcare demands. The problem, in part, is the challenge of recruiting and retaining enough talented staff to deliver care. The unique challenges faced in healthcare attrition require benefits solutions that target the most pressing needs of employees, such as student loan debt repayment, as a way to differentiate your health system from others.
About The Author
Jeni Burckart is a licensed pharmacist, prominent student loan expert and Senior Director of Healthcare for Tuition.io.