Job openings across healthcare reached an all-time peak in September 2022 at 9.2%, according to data from Fitch Ratings. That was more than double the 4.2% average job opening rate from 2010 to 2019. Although payrolls at nonprofit hospitals and ambulatory healthcare services increased slightly toward the end of 2022, the number of employees quitting remained high.

With such trends likely to continue, finding effective ways to recruit and retain clinicians will be crucial, said Dr. Iman Abuzeid, co-founder and CEO of Incredible Health, a nurse hiring platform.

Some organizations are upgrading their processes and technology to hire more rapidly, she said. They are establishing service-level agreements between recruiting and hiring teams, such as ensuring an interview is scheduled within 48 hours or a decision is made within 24 hours.

Eric Burch, executive principal of operations and workforce services at healthcare performance improvement company Vizient, predicted an ongoing need for contract labor. In response, health systems should continue to build travel nurses into their staffing plan, he said.

“It’s really important to approach contract labor vendors as a strategic partner,” Burch said. “So when you need the staff, it’s a partnership and they’re able to help you get to your goals, versus suddenly reaching out to them and they don’t know your needs when you’re in crisis.”

Health systems will need to ensure physicians are compensated adequately for the care they deliver, while also hiring additional staff to augment the workforce and alleviate burnout, said Dr. Tochi Iroku-Malize, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. The group supports legislation and policies that would streamline prior authorization processes in the Medicare Advantage program and avert further cuts to Medicare payments so physicians can focus on providing care with less stress.

Hospitals should also consider partnering with local medical schools to educate students on work opportunities, said April Taylor, vice president of quality at Johns Hopkins Hospital and National Association for Healthcare Quality board member.

“Every time you think you’ve gotten to that place of sustainability, something new happens,” Taylor said. “So the ability to be nimble … [has] been highlighted even more throughout this process. But fast-forward six months from now: Once we get through this, I think healthcare organizations will be even more prepared for what’s to come in the future.”

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