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A Mid-Year Look at Health Care Recruiting and Hiring Trends

A Mid-Year Look at Health Care Recruiting and Hiring Trends

Health care recruiting, never a sleepy sector of the recruitment industry, is more complex than ever in 2011.

A changing mix of providers is evolving to survive financial stresses and thrive under health care reform. Many are asking more of a limited pool of health care talent that’s charged with caring for a growing and aging American population.

But here’s one simple truth that lengthens the days and weeks of health care recruiters from coast to coast: Macroeconomic malaise or no, “the competition is fierce,” says Annessa Fort, Northwest branch manager at Yoh in health care recruiting.

Health Care Recruiting Trends
Health care continues to be the healthiest labor-market sector in the United States, rising by 287,000 in the 12 months ending June 2011, to 14.06 million, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth included 171,000 jobs in ambulatory services, 56,000 hospital jobs and 25,000 positions in nursing-care facilities.

So demand is strong and the need for aggressive health care recruitment is rising. The Monster Employment Index, a broad measure of online recruitment, has showed substantial growth in the health care sector this year.

The index for health care practitioners and technical workers rose from 139 in January to 160 in June 2011, while health care support workers climbed from 192 to 223 over the period.

There are regional pockets of relatively weak demand for health care talent, and some of them are sizable. “Most of our grads are in our accelerated program, and they’re doing OK,” says Elaine Andolina, MS, RN, director of admissions and co-director of baccalaureate programs at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. “The grads that have problems are the ones that go to the west coast, particularly California.”

Employers Seek Higher Qualifications
Even with demand returning to pre-recession levels, health care employers are continuing to boost credential requirements and thus raise the bar for recruiters. “In occupational health, positions that used to require just an RN now require a BSN,” says Fort.

With healthcare-reform provisions such as value-based purchasing kicking in this year, providers are looking for practitioners who can work with complex structures of financial incentives and penalties, especially in hospitals. “We’ve seen a higher demand for RNs with case-management experience,” says Fort.

Still, most providers are keenly aware of the value of retaining health care employees and will take reasonable measures to keep them. “With physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, employers are doing direct hires because they don’t want to bring them on as contractors and then have them leave,” says Fort.

Changes to Primary Care Providers
With small-group practices straining under increasing expenses and millions of additional Americans becoming insured in the coming years, “there’s such a need for primary-care providers,” says Mary Jo Goolsby, EdD, NP-C, director of education at the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. “NPs have earned the reputation of providing high-quality, cost-effective care.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) encourages nurse practitioners and physician assistants to practice to the full extent of their professional qualifications. “Health care reform will create more opportunities for nurse practitioners,” says Goolsby. “MDs can’t do it alone.”

Newly minted nurse practitioners, typically experienced nurses who have returned to school for advanced training, are highly sought after. “We graduate 9,500 NPs per year, and they’re not finding that the job market is saturated,” says Goolsby.

Meanwhile, a new wave of health care hiring is gathering for physicians who provide primary care, says Leslie Michelson, CEO of Private Health Management, a provider that aims to outdo even concierge practices in quality of care and service.

As more and more doctors are financially squeezed out of traditional private practice, they’re seeking to get a handle on the care settings where they might migrate. “Physicians who are more entrepreneurial will shift into concierge or retainer-based business,” says Michelson. “The others will be more comfortable in a larger system with more security and structure, say in a hospital.”

Employers Offer a Variety of Sweeteners
With many medical specialties in shortage, health care employers and their recruiters are offering a broad range of employee benefits to desirable candidates, as part of their nurse retention strategy.

“If a nurse practitioner wants to move into a new specialty area, she looks for an organization that will give her on-the-job training,” says Goolsby. Clinicians typically seek employers that provide the full range of professional development opportunities.

Clinicians also seek the benefits that professionals in many other fields no longer take for granted. “NPs are looking for health insurance and long-term care insurance,” says Goolsby. “They also look for sufficient staffing with medical and nursing assistants, and adequate space to see patients.”

Some providers are luring particularly valuable candidates by treating them like executives. “We’re seeing NPs and PAs get director-level roles, with the perks of upper management like annual bonuses and additional vacation time,” says Fort.

Yet another approach is an appeal to the idealism of the many practitioners who have burned out on bureaucracy and compromise. “We entice physicians with the clinical sophistication of our approach; we provide the highest level quality of care” to clients such as hedge-fund executives, says Michelson.