Health Break | Published August 28, 2006 | Written by Keith Austin

Recruiters Vying For Limited Number of Health Care Professionals

Recruiters Vying For Limited Number of Health Care Professionals

The competitive nature of health care recruiting, which was addressed in a previous question-and-answer column, is compounded by employee shortages in specific health care careers.

Q: For several years, there has been talk about a nationwide nursing shortage. What is the extent of the nursing shortage, and how does it affect recruiting?
A: According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, "The United States is in the midst of a nursing shortage that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows." By the year 2020, 44 states plus the District of Columbia will have a nursing shortage, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that more than 1.2 million new nurses will be needed by 2014. A Pennsylvania Health Department survey of RNs indicates there will be a 30 percent gap between the supply of nurses and the demand for them by the year 2020. Pennsylvania is ranked as the fifth state in the nation for projected shortages.

Because the number of young RNs has decreased so dramatically over the past two decades, enrollments into nursing programs would have to increase at least 40 percent annually to replace those expected to leave the workforce through retirement.

One problem we are facing right now is that there are not enough nurse educators to meet enrollment demands.

The overall effect on recruiting is obvious: More and more recruiters are vying for the same applicants.

Q: Why is there such a large nursing shortage?
A: Many factors have led to the shortage. Enrollment into nursing schools has not kept up with the need for new nurses. A shortage of nursing faculty has restricted the number of potential new nursing school enrollments. The general public is living longer, requiring more health care providers of all kinds.

In addition, the type of work itself is physically and emotionally demanding. The schedule is also demanding. Nurses in acute care facilities are scheduled to work evening and night shifts, as well as weekends and holidays.

Q: Besides nursing, are there any other health care careers that are experiencing a shortage of employees?
A: There is a shortage of pharmacists, health information technologists, radiographers and medical technologists.

Q: How important is the retention of nurses to your job as a recruiter?
A: All organizations strive to hire the best possible candidates and avoid unnecessary turnover. Not only does turnover have the potential to impact patient care, it has a direct relationship to an organizations bottom line. It has been estimated the costs associated in hiring a new staff member may equate to one years earnings. These costs include advertising, interview expenses (including the time managers spend conducting interviews), reference checks, medical examinations, relocation expenses and orientation to the job duties.

Q: After talented nurses and other health care professionals have been successfully recruited, what is the key to retaining them?
A: Providing for their professional goals. Giving them the opportunity to succeed in their areas and advance in their careers.
Managers play a key role in retention. In order to build a successful team, managers must address the needs of four different generations, each with a different work ethic and different expectations of the employer-employee relationship. Managers must be able to identify and cultivate talent.

Everyone at the organization is a recruiter in a sense and has responsibility in retaining the best. Who better to recruit and retain people other than those who work for the organization each and every day?

Keith Austin is a professional recruiter at Mount Nittany Medical Center.