Addressing Cost of Vacancy, Health Systems Lean on Intelligent Tech to Attract, Keep Talent 

Updated on March 6, 2023

Healthcare staffing is only just now starting to settle down after the topsy-turviness of the last few years. The big unknown facing the industry is how to reset following the “Great Resignation” and workforce decimation during the COVID years.

The question is: how can organizations meet their immediate staffing needs and plan for long-term growth when access to clinical talent is more fluid than ever before?

For hospitals and primary care facilities, the “Great Reset” is found in the return of job fairs and on-campus recruiting events, which are huge for face-to-face hiring of new nurses. It makes healthcare network and facility-by-facility hiring that much easier in the short term, and brings in more candidates for full-time positions.

When facilities need to rely on per-diem and temporary traveling nurses and technicians, patient-to-staff ratios are impacted on a daily basis — which in turn can leave beds and revenue-producing service schedules empty. And up goes costs of vacancy. 

Resetting hiring expectations and hiring practices can help bring costs in line and fill critical staffing gaps. This reset is forcing organizations to become more strategic in how they fill both long and short-term roles while engaging in workforce planning for the future.

Incentive salaries for traveling nurses come down by as much as 50%, and an increasing number of clinical professionals are looking to return to more predictable full-time roles, and “boomerang” staff are hiring targets for many healthcare providers.

Successful healthcare providers are adding alumni recruiting campaigns and employee referrals to actively supplement nursing school hiring.

These proactive approaches are coming at a good time, because the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that healthcare will add nearly 2.6 million jobs between 2021 and 2031 — the most of any sector. How can organizations fill these roles? 

To have a shot at success, health systems need to build increased efficiencies and get back into the basics and fundamentals of recruiting such as sourcing, screening, and scheduling.

They need to hire faster and retain longer, with more help from automation and less reliance on cumbersome manual processes.

Efficient recruiting in healthcare also happens when job seekers can search for positions, engage with hiring managers, and even apply for positions on their schedule.

Here, AI-led personalization and automation on career sites paves the way — with personalized job recommendations, chat-based screening and credential verification, and one-click interview coordination that can shave days off hiring for much-needed roles — all available 24-7. An added boon: faster hiring means fewer open roles, lower overall costs to hire, and the ability to chip away at vacancy costs. 

In one example, a large provider of comprehensive care to senior living communities had a large number of open roles during the pandemic, and HR leaders had a major objective to hire more Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). The talent acquisition team not only had to fill these notoriously hard-to-fill roles, but proactively prepare for future needs.

The team created a task force of recruiters to focus on CNA-specific hiring aided by AI. They achieved the quick-win results they needed with automated hiring workflows and scheduling, bringing on more than 400 CNAs in just seven weeks. That far exceeded expectations, and provided a template for future role-specific hiring initiatives.

Bon Secours Mercy Health, which operates one of the country’s largest hospital networks, is investing in their talent practices with an AI-powered platform combined with a focus on team core values. The result? They’re exceeding hiring targets. Total external hires, which include nurses, were up by double digits as of last summer.

“This team is producing outcomes,” Eric Van Duren, Chief Talent Acquisition Officer at Bon Secours, said of his colleagues. “They’re filling aged job postings they haven’t been able to fill before.” As is often the case with agency recruitment, it’s person-focused, he adds. “This is team-focused. We win together.”

Improving recruitment comes down to three things: quantity, quality and speed.

Quantity: There’s a limited, but growing number of certified clinical professionals in any one area. If an organization has 100 or even 1,000 RNs serving a particular community, the number of immediately available hires is some percentage of that base. Smart organizations know that they have to manage their recruitment marketing budget to saturate their audience and grow geographic range.

Quality: Can new hires immediately fill roles where specialized skills are required? Is upskilling in their future? Are they ready to have a conversation? This is where having the intelligence to know if qualified candidates are hitting the career site, opening an email, or interacting with a text comes in handy. 

Speed: Automation turbocharges the process. The quicker an organization can initiate a conversation with qualified people, validate their interest and expertise, and find a job fit, the faster they can compete in a crowded healthcare recruitment space.

These three characteristics are intrinsically linked to better financial outcomes, especially with nursing positions. That’s because a new hospital nurse is likely to start out on a general medicine floor, rather than in more qualified roles such as obstetrics or oncology. It is in those specialty areas where hospitals can charge more, and where staff vacancies first hit the bottom line.

Alumni hiring and AI-based career pathing and job recommendations are just two areas where recruiting technology can: rebuild a clinical workforce to fill more experienced roles, and develop talent for future roles. Attracting, retaining, and reacquainting with skilled talent will elevate a provider’s ability to better serve its community of care. They can also boost patient satisfaction, and, most importantly, tackle staffing as one of the most significant contributors to overall cost of vacancy. 

Now is the time to assess and invest in tools and tech that makes hiring more efficient, cost effective, and improves the experience for everyone. 

Bambi Grundwerg Phenom copy
Bambi Grundwerg

Bambi Grundwerg is a Product Marketing Director specializing in industry & vertical solutions at Phenom, a global HR tech company based in the greater Philadelphia area. She was formerly a Marketing Program Director at IBM and an economist at the Massachusetts Department of Commerce and Economic Development.