Healthcare, as an industry, is sort of the antithesis of recruiting – as a profession, healthcare practitioners are treated with innate respect and inherent trust, and their expertise or judgement goes unquestioned – we literally put our lives in their hands.
While work directly impacts our quality of life, the work of those working in healthcare is literally a matter of life and death. Which means, of course, that those of us recruiting healthcare professionals serve a profoundly important purpose.
Ask any medical professional why they chose their career path, and almost without exception, you’ll get an origin story far different than recruiters; their calling came as a result of a deliberate choice and years of dedicated preparation. Unlike talent acquisition, these careers aren’t the result of some existential accident, and there are certainly barriers to entry, barriers that keep all but the most dedicated and driven people from being able to deliver the quality of care required for the most critical of roles.
The Current State of Healthcare Recruitment.
The origin story of healthcare practitioners, from doctors to nurses to therapists, are as unique as the professionals giving their lives to save the lives of others. All were inspired to pursue healthcare because of a profoundly personal experience: an early childhood disease, perhaps, or a relative or sibling forced to live with a congenital defect or condition. In short, someone they knew, likely, faced a life-altering disease or injury that, for whatever reason, inspired that individual to aspire to make a difference and dedicate themselves to a career in healthcare.
While we make cold calls, this kind of calling doesn’t happen very often in other industries. That’s not to say, of course, that everyone else’s professional passions are accidental or happenstance. At this very moment, there could be someone who decides to get into recruiting because they realize that they’d be better at filling jobs than subjecting themselves to the experience of looking for jobs, or someone who direct sourced that impossible hire and got just enough of a rush from closing that req to get hooked on recruitment for life.
But, let’s face it – that’s probably a stretch, and more anecdotal than actually reflective of recruiting reality. Our industry, or most every other segment of the workforce, from marketing to construction to finance, chose our particular paths precisely because it was something we were good enough at to make a good living. Our job choices are made largely not because of passion (that often manifests itself a little later on) but because of pragmatism.
And let’s face it, being a hypocrite (an epidemic of sorts within the ranks of the rank and file) is far easier than living by the Hippocratic oath. Helping ourselves is easier than helping others, and therefore, there’s a certain degree of solipsism required for survival – which is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Literally.
Healthcare Recruitment: Growing Demand, Dwindling Supply.
The impact of the Affordable Care Act has been pretty well documented within the HR industry, but the provision of universal coverage, coupled with increasing costs and average life expectancy, have created a perfect storm for healthcare, and demand is only projected to continue rising for the foreseeable future. But just because legislation and demographics have increased access to healthcare services, it hasn’t increased the number of professionals responsible for providing those services – that number, in fact, has remained more or less stagnant, creating a skills gap that makes those famously faced by the tech sector seem pretty manageable by comparison.
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In fact, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States faces an emergency that, if left untreated, could become a pervasive and persistent pandemic. The association predicts that by 2020, the US will face a shortage of 90,000 physicians, and 130,000 by 2025. Coupled with the fact that physicians are being actively courted by the private sector (think pharma, biotech, medical devices) and have the pick of more professional paths not involving primary patient care than ever before, if we don’t find a cure to this disorder now, we’re screwed, societally speaking.
The Race for the Healthcare Recruitment Cure.
The demand for physicians, not to mention registered nurses, medical administrators and the bevy of other roles that are just as critical for healthcare as the MDs these jobs support, provides recruiters today with a significant set of challenges – and unlimited opportunities for the ones who can figure out how to overcome these pervasive problems. So, how do you find candidates who are not only motivated and mission oriented, but also so busy that responding to recruiters is becoming almost impossible as their caseloads only continue to increase?
Even for those recruiters who can get these purple unicorns on the phone long enough to make a pitch, engagement is only half of the battle: the fact is, these candidates have options, and are acutely aware that the market demand far outpaces supply – meaning that few need recruiters more than recruiters need them.
Even if you’re calling with the most amazing opportunity out there, there’s a good chance that candidate is going to feel out other options before continuing with the process, since, while they’re looking, it’s impossible for them not to find a million other potential choices in the cutthroat competition for one of the most valuable commodities in talent today.
So, what’s a recruiter supposed to do? It all comes down to the same discipline that every human is hard wired for – storytelling. Keeping the attention and limited focus of a healthcare professional requires every recruiter to be able to tell a compelling enough story about any job opening to compel candidates to take action. It’s not about sourcing or finding candidates, or even engaging them. Nope – you’ve got to have a narrative that’s going to speak to healthcare practitioners’ professional aspirations and personal altruism alike. That’s one happy ending that can be pretty tough to write.
Generic just won’t cut it. Everyone tells candidates about how their opportunities will lead to more upward mobility, or increase their exposure and abilities to advance up the ladder – it’s a trope that’s so overused, it’s become cliche. Candidates in this space know they can advance their careers simply by sticking around and letting the market conditions play themselves out independently.
Not to mention the fact that every candidate you source likely has heard from dozens of recruiters with similarly specious messages that don’t speak to what they actually care about. Remember, their vocational calling supersedes any cold call you’ll ever make. Getting them to answer your call to action means speaking specifically to the things that drove these professionals into healthcare in the first place.
The best approach is often featuring real stories from real professionals making a real difference. For example, telling about a previous hire who joined an employer out of medical school used their passion for robotics to create a solution for microsurgery that just got patented, or an RN who’s pursuing her passion for travel in a role which requires working in many markets and not having to pull swing shifts in the same hospital day after day. These are the kinds of tangible tales that will not only resonate with healthcare candidates, but also leave them feeling excited and inspired.
This outcome is what successful healthcare recruiting increasingly requires. And it’s not easy.
Dammit, Jim, I’m A Doctor, Not A Candidate.
Even the most dedicated healthcare professionals, of course, also have personal lives and obligations to others besides their growing roster of patients. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, but turns out, recruiting in healthcare, like real estate, is all about location. If you’re recruiting LRNs for a concierge practice in Seattle, you’re going to fare far better than if you’re looking to place them in, say, Marysville, Kentucky.
Not only does demand in less sexy areas surpass those in major cities, but the fact that so many of the hardest to fill healthcare roles require relocation, making issues like having to deal with school age children or a trailing spouse compound the challenges healthcare recruiters face.
These are obviously just examples, but ones that likely will come up whenever you’re trying to fill any sort of clinical role sooner or later.
Many of the challenges facing healthcare recruiters are unique to the industry, but some are the same as any other function or segment. Take those infamous Millennials, for example, whose demand for work/life balance and flexibility is antithetical to the expectations of more experienced healthcare professionals who have sacrificed weekends, nights and holidays to being on call for years simply as a matter of course.
Or the fact that getting skilled workers often requires work sponsorships on visas whose quotas were met months ago, meaning you have to fight for a much smaller pool of qualified candidates who already have the right (and license) to work in the US.
These are only a few of the symptoms that recruiters have to try to find a cure for in every industry; compound this with healthcare’s unique challenges, and you’ve got a Stage 4 candidate crisis. How do recruiters deal with such a grim diagnosis and beat the odds?
The good news is, there are new tools and strategies to help.
The Prescription for Healthcare Recruiting Success.
It’s clear that recruiters in the healthcare field, facing financial and candidate supply restraints, have to work with issues that are far outside the scope of their role – although being able to control things like employee engagement and retention make preventative care the easiest way to preempt problems before they happen.
These include a host of new and emerging technologies to help source and select the right candidates, from social networks dedicated to healthcare professionals to pre-employment assessments to video interviewing technology, to name just a few of the many solutions now available to help make healthcare recruiters’ lives a little easier.
Of course, technology can’t overcome the limits of poor strategic workforce planning. If you haven’t created a human capital strategy, healthcare employers should start by taking a critical look at the answers to a few critical questions:
1. What are our strategic business goals 6 months or a year from now? What can we do today to make sure we have the talent we need 5 years from now?
2. Where can we find the talent we need to support those goals? Can we train our current employees for the skills we need or do we need to hire external workers?
3. Where are our current talent gaps and how can we fill those the most effectively and efficiently?
4. What contingency plans do we have in place and how can we plan for the unexpected?
5. How can we make sure we’re able to retain, retrain and engage our current workforce?
6. What metrics are necessary for benchmarking, monitoring and optimizing our progress?
The answers to the above questions will determine which software and technologies are worth investing the time and money it takes to implement them and realize real recruiting ROI. Of course, these superficial questions are just scratching the surface.
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About the Author: Noel Cocca oversees the business end of Recruiting Daily as CEO, using his powers as a master negotiator and his entrepreneurial experience from years spent running an executive search and staffing firm focused on healthcare recruitment to oversee budgeting, billing and the bottom line.
Noel is a huge recruiting and technology geek who splits his time between hitting the slopes as an avid skier and raising the two best kids in the world.