Attracting and Retaining Talent Within Today’s Healthcare Field

April 1, 2024
A recent webinar had industry experts thinking about current workplace needs

Challenges in the healthcare workforce are of growing concern in the country. So much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has rolled out the Impact Wellbeing™ Campaign and, with it, a set of guidelines to improve healthcare workers’ wellbeing. A report by the CDC showed that there has been an increase over the last several years in the percentage of healthcare workers looking for another job. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) found in a recent study that the U.S. will face a physician shortage of up to 86,000 by 2036.

It seemed timely that on March 27, the healthcare workforce was the subject of lively discussion during an online event hosted by Chicago-based Becker’s Healthcare.

The webinar commenced with a session titled “The Strategic Impact of Learning & Career Development on Healthcare Innovation & Delivery,” in which Cheryl Paxton-Hughes, director of strategy services with Santa Monica-based Cornerstone OnDemand in California, spoke with Alison Bolick, executive director of organizational development & training with Merakey in Lafayette Hill, Pa.

Paxton-Hughes pointed out that learning is sometimes the first thing to be cut whenever budget constraints exist. She believes that tangible metrics are important to tie learning to not just patient satisfaction but also quality of care. Bolick agreed, saying that making learning more accessible, consumable, and engaging will help in investment decision-making.

The next session, moderated by Becker’s Healthcare’s Alexis Kayser, was a discussion on approaches to continuous learning. The webinar featured a diverse panel of healthcare professionals: Terri Feely, chief people officer of Inova headquartered in Falls Church, Va.; Jyoti Rai, SVP and chief talent officer with NewYork-Presbyterian; Manda Scott, chief human resources officer with Kittitas Valley Healthcare in Ellensburg, Wash.; and Mamoon Syed, chief people officer with CHLA in Los Angeles, Calif.

Feely expressed the expectation that there will be a greater demand for leadership roles considering evolving technologies. Indeed, added Syed, “I do think we're also going to be needing a lot more data analytics and business intelligence leaders.” Rai underscored the importance of understanding the market to understand the talent needed. Partnering with schools, building future pipelines, and strengthening existing pipelines are some strategies, she said.

Scott added that considering the current challenges, including staff shortages, it’s an idea to inspire people to take on leadership roles. “How do we make leadership feel attractive to people to grow and be part of solutions to help our healthcare systems through those challenges?” Scott asked. She added that her organization offers paid on-the-job training, which has been a wonderful opportunity, especially in rural communities.

In the next session, Jakob Emerson, the associate news director with Becker’s Healthcare, moderated a discussion with Tom McCauley, SHRM-SCP, the chief human resources officer of Colorado-based Aspen Valley Hospital; Dalph Watson, the chief people officer of Metro Health located in Cleveland, Ohio; and Mike Wukitsch, the chief people officer of Lee Health in Fort Myers, Fla. They focused on nurturing a resilient workforce.

“It’s recognizing suffering and then moving to act to support and alleviate that suffering,” Wukitsch said, answering Emerson’s question about how compassion and resilience can be defined within the context of healthcare leadership. McCauley reminded the audience of the post-pandemic exodus of people and the impact that had on the healthcare sector. However, he mentioned that his organization's engagement scores sharply increased compared to the scores during COVID-19. “Employees are able to get counseling sessions,” Watson said of the wellness program within her organization. “Employees appreciate that we are listening.”

The webinar concluded with a discussion on ideas and priorities with Sonya Bergman, chief people officer with Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), headquartered in Lexington, Ky.; Shaun Smith, group SVP and chief people & culture officer with NewYork Presbyterian; and Qiana Williams, ACC, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, chief people officer with Portland-based Oregon Health and Sciences University. Moderator Kelly Gooch kicked the discussion off with a question on how HR roles have been evolving.

“We’ve done some things like offer incentives to nursing students in their last semester,” Bergman said. This helps ensure they pass the nursing boards and elicits a commitment, she added. “I think being creative is really the name of the game for human resources in today's world.” Smith agreed, mentioning that the pandemic offered an opportunity to be more creative. “How can we create a different employment proposition for different people in the workforce?” Williams added.

One of the top strategies within Smith’s organization has been to focus on reducing the vacancy rate to four percent. “Coming out of the pandemic,” Smith said, “we need to think about what’s important, what skill sets are really critical for us.” “We'll send people to school for a year, we'll pay their full salary, we'll get them back in a rotation, and we will get the new lab technologist,” Smith explained about creative solutions to attract needed talent within his organization.

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