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The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare Staffing and Retention

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The COVID-19 pandemic upended the way the world works. Nowhere was this more in evidence than in the healthcare workplace, where essential workers were stretched to the limits of their endurance and recruiters faced obstacles like never before.

Recent research into the demands on the healthcare industry explored the effects on medical staff recruiting and on the pressures physicians and healthcare providers feel as a result of the pandemic. The following paragraphs provide a brief description of the report’s findings.

COVID-19’s Impact on Healthcare Staffing

In June 2020, the report contacted recruitment professionals who work with in-house clinicians and advanced practice candidates to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations. The survey was conducted by both an online survey and personal interviews. The individual discussions covered recruiters for both large and small healthcare organizations and represented the industry across the US.

First, the survey uncovered two potential roads that clinicians and advanced practice recruiters traveled during the pandemic. The first route attracted those who just stopped trying to recruit. The second enveloped those who continued to address employment issues and innovate the way they conducted recruitment activities in light of the pandemic’s disruption of the status quo.

Typically, respondents experienced the pandemic’s pain points in the following ways:

  • Recruitment teams faced a suddenly remote workforce, and they worked from home. That meant communication routes were no longer normal, and teams faced difficulties maintaining team spirit and reducing feelings of isolation.
  • Teams often felt the challenge of maintaining a work-life balance when work is in the home. They also felt the demands of additional workloads as team members were furloughed.
  • The pandemic impacted visits by candidates to potential work sites as employers, recruiters, and candidates assessed the necessity for travel during the pandemic.
  • Virtual interviews forced recruitment teams to ferret out the best platforms and create new approaches to the interview process.
  • Furloughed clinicians (and those who faced pay cuts due to reduced working hours) worried that their jobs would never go back to normal.
  • Clinicians, who remained on the front lines after furloughs decimated their ranks, faced burnout as they worked with the incredible numbers of patient deaths, overflowing hospital ICU capacity, and lack of personal protection equipment.
  • Budget cuts, especially for travel, affected not only on-site interviews but also contingent staffing travel.

Delays were another problem for recruiters:

  • Onboarding dates and employment start dates faced delays, while other healthcare organizations engaged in hiring freezes
  • Residents and fellows felt the pandemic’s impact, and recruiters faced the question of where to place them
  • Clinics postponed opening dates, causing another disruption in employee placements
  • Reduced patient volumes in hospitals and medical practices meant less of a need for contingent providers

Naturally, recruiters worry that the pandemic is not over and a third wave of infection in the fall may once cause disrupt the advances they’ve managed to attain.

The report indicates that specific trends that began before COVID-19 have accelerated due to the pandemic, as noted below:

  • Telehealth services
  • Virtual technology through video platforms
  • Private and small medical group practices closed, while mergers and acquisitions have increased
  • Flexible schedules and on-call hours have become more popular

Clinicians are more interested in multi-state licensing and more applicants express interest in relocation and conducting job searches. In addition, some clinicians think it’s a good time to retire, and others who are experiencing burnout are reevaluating their employment options.

Recruitment sourcing activities that accelerated due to COVID-19 are:

  • Email
  • Virtual Career Fairs
  • Social Media Posts
  • Internet Job Boards
  • Direct Mail

Some aspects of healthcare recruitment have decelerated as a result of the pandemic:

  • Specialty practices are on the downward slope.
  • International medical graduates are fewer.
  • Salaries are no longer rising at pre-pandemic rates.
  • 28% of respondent healthcare organizations reduced recruitment staff by furloughs, layoffs, and/or termination.
  • Outsourcing hiring to outside staffing agencies has decreased as the average recruitment dollars have decreased significantly.

While only 38% of respondents said they paused recruitment efforts, 47% of those paused were large healthcare organizations, 43% were midsize, and only 23% were small medical organizations.

Recruitment sourcing decelerated changes, too, such as:

  • Journal advertisements
  • Search firms

How VISTA Helps Address Staffing Pain Points

At VISTA, we’re dedicated to being our clients’ strategic workforce optimization partner. With our deep industry expertise and exclusive people-first MSP technology, we help health systems, hospitals, practices, and government entities build and sustain effective workforce models that ensure patient access to care and organizational stability.

Covering more than 60 specialties, we staff physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and CRNAs to help our clients preserve revenue and maintain profitability.

VISTA Select uses advanced analytics to provide customized workforce solutions for our clients. Our program expertise and network of trusted industry partners allow us to design and implement staffing solutions that include:

  • Exclusive and best-in-class workforce management technology
  • Complete vendor management
  • Telehealth technology
  • Customized contingent staffing plans to meet the demands of our clients

Through the VISTA Select Managed Service Provider (MSP) platform, clients can monitor and streamline processes, standardize documentation, and customize their own client dashboard for real-time reporting. This allows clients to forecast future staffing needs and manage the complete contingent labor population, as well as customize and consolidate invoicing.

Taking the Next Step

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the business world on a global level. That is especially true of the healthcare industry and the recruiting services that help fill essential worker vacancies.

VISTA is your strategic staffing partner and with our suite of services, we help grow your business, all while keeping the bottom line in mind. Contact a VISTA expert to learn more.

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