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October 08, 2019 6:55 AM

Challenges in Healthcare Recruitment

Hiring for the healthcare industry is one of the most challenging and stressful tasks a recruiter can undertake. This is an industry where your hires can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of others and so it’s imperative that you find the right candidates with the right balance of skills and aptitude for the role.

Unfortunately, finding the right candidate isn’t the only challenge you’ll face.

A lack of qualified candidates

According to JP Morgan’s recent survey of healthcare executives, as many as 92% said that they were somewhat concerned about finding candidates with the right skills set. And 35% said that the talent shortage within the industry was one of their primary concerns.

So why is there a talent shortage?

Well, with an aging population (more on that later) and fewer people opting for careers in the healthcare industry, this talent shortage was inevitable. But perhaps one of the most telling factors is burnout. As a result of some of the challenges we’ve listed below, nurses and doctors often find themselves working in less than ideal conditions.

This burnout along with a disillusionment with the industry as a whole has seen significant numbers of physicians in the US leave their roles and pursue a new career. Similar trends have also been noted across the globe and it’s a major concern for healthcare executives.

As you can imagine, more vacant roles, fewer graduates, and experienced talent leaving the industry means that hiring for the healthcare industry is one of the most challenging tasks a recruiter can undertake.

New graduates find jobs immediately

There are three major benefits to hiring graduates fresh out of medical school.

  • They’re fresh and enthusiastic about their new career
  • Their training is up to date
  • They’re cost effective

These benefits combined with that lack of qualified talent we spoke of earlier means that there’s often a scramble to nab the best talent before the ink has dried on their degrees and diplomas.

However, the biggest issue with trying to hire fresh graduates is that they often tend to go straight back to the healthcare provider they served their internship with.

The challenge for a recruiter here is making an employer the most attractive option without offering too high a salary.

The experience vs. education conundrum

This is an issue for employers in any industry. Do they opt for the fresh recruit with newly acquired skills from a prestigious institution? Or do they go with a professional with plenty of experience, but a qualification from a lower ranked school?

In this instance, unconscious bias can be an issue and so it’s vital that a recruiter try their best to remove any personal inclinations towards one or the other. Ideally, there will be something of a balance of both types of candidate in their pipeline, but with scarcity being a real issue, finding that balance can be extremely difficult.


Retiring talent

For the last 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers have hit retirement age every single day. That number of people going into retirement has a huge impact across multiple industries, but it is felt the most in healthcare.

This is because, not only are thousands of people who work in healthcare retiring every year, they also require healthcare services as they enter their old age. This means that the number of vacancies within the healthcare industry will rise with some estimates predicting that employment in the industry will grow 14% between 2018 to 2024.

This growing demand for healthcare professionals coupled with the lack of qualified candidates we mentioned earlier, means a great deal of hard work for recruiters in the years ahead.

Longer time to hire

According to a report by DHI on hiring statistics in the US, roles in the healthcare industry take the longest to fill. On average it takes 49 days to fill a role in healthcare and with a shortage in the number of qualified candidates on the market, that figure could increase in the coming months and years. 

The findings from that study only tells half the story though. Further studies have found that recruiting a nurse with specific department-related qualifications can take anything from 55 right up to 119 days.

By all accounts, those are quite frightening statistics for any recruiter or HR professional.

Poor employer branding

Working side by side with recruiters, we understand only too well just how important employer brand is. Studies have found that 84% of candidates feel that a potential employer’s reputation is a major factor in their job search.

Unfortunately, employers in the healthcare industry in most cases do not prioritize investing in employer branding. This is understandable as, quite frankly, they may feel that their research or the care of their patients is more important.

However, this doesn’t change the fact that potential candidates are affected by a lack of effort in terms of employer branding. Increasingly, candidates want to work for employers that value their contributions and pay attention to their social responsibilities. If they find no evidence of this on an employer’s website or social media profiles, they’ll likely have no interest in applying for a vacant role. You can learn more about employer branding for healthcare in our post Why a Strong Employer Brand Means Everything in Healthcare Recruitment.

Hiring for rural areas

In 2015, more than half of the global rural population was excluded from healthcare. A study by the ILO also found that only 23% of the global healthcare workforce was employed in rural areas. This is despite the fact that people require healthcare no matter where they live.

However, finding qualified candidates who are willing to work in isolated communities is particularly challenging. This is especially true considering that rural salaries may also be lower than those offered in metropolitan areas.

Although the quality of life and the cost of living in rural areas may be attractive benefits, it can still take considerably longer to fill healthcare roles outside towns and cities.

Diversity issues

Each of the challenges listed above are serious in their own right, but when combined, they can lead to the most significant challenge of them all — a lack of diversity in your talent pool.

As you can imagine, when qualified candidates are so few and far between, it’s easy to forget that diversity in healthcare is just as important as it is in any other industry. In fact, some doctors feel that if there is a lack of diversity in a healthcare setting, patients may feel too intimidated to seek medical assistance.

While a lack of diversity in other industries may lead to poor team performance, in the healthcare industry it could have far more serious ramifications. 

The healthcare industry is without a doubt one of the most important fields you can work for. As we mentioned earlier, it’s an industry where you simply must get every decision right. And that all starts with the right hiring decision.

Healthcare Diversity


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