How to Recruit and Retain Healthcare Workers Amidst Challenging Times

Updated on March 28, 2022
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By Lisa Hedges

We’re living through historic moments right now—the pandemic, crisis abroad, record inflation, and the continued Great Resignation. These difficult times are culminating in devastating blows to the healthcare industry, including supply chain shortages and price increases on critical supplies, record burnout, and low employee retention rates. Medical practices are struggling to make ends meet with skilled workers leaving in droves and, in some cases, are forced to change operational hours and take financial hits. 

The effects of this include patients waiting months for appointments, rushed care, and sky-high prices. Healthcare providers are turning to technology to automate processes normally facilitated by people (e.g., scheduling, patient records management, and data entry). While this helps with the problem at hand, management must take it one step further by directly addressing worker concerns about salary, work/life balance, and benefits. 

Software Advice, which provides medical software recommendations, surveyed nearly 300 healthcare employees who have considered leaving their current employer to learn more about the issues they’re facing, what benefits have kept them from quitting, and what changes they need to see in order to stay.

Some of the results might surprise you, but one common theme persists: management must listen to their workers and implement meaningful changes that reflect the current job market. Talking about changes without actually implementing them is a surefire way to erode employee trust, which is critical for successful navigation of challenging times.

Top reasons for healthcare worker turnover

Stress, insufficient pay, and burnout are among the top reasons for turnover. When asked what factors contributed to burnout, the top response among healthcare workers was increased workloads due to turnover (no surprise there). When asked how many of their co-workers had quit since the pandemic started, the majority said their practice had lost between one and five employees. This is especially devastating for smaller practices that tend to have less resources and staff.

Despite these circumstances, there are proven methods medical practices can leverage to keep skilled workers and attract new ones.

Reasons skilled healthcare workers are staying and how to keep them

Healthcare workers cited these top three reasons for staying in their role:

  • Salary and benefits (39% of workers)
  • Loyalty to employer and co-workers (26%)
  • Loyalty to their patients (23%) 

Employees who are actively considering leaving their jobs cited increased salary (64%) and remote working options (59%) as top retention methods. Only 15% of respondents were concerned they wouldn’t find a job if they quit, indicating a hot job market where healthcare employers must implement higher salaries and elevated benefits to achieve retention.

Shockingly, most healthcare employers haven’t made changes to reflect employee needs

According to Software Advice’s survey results, medical employers aren’t doing as much as employees need them to when it comes to making their jobs easier, which is a major problem. Managers need to realize that skilled healthcare workers are actively being poached by competing healthcare providers who provide better working conditions. Additionally, they aren’t listening to legitimate worker concerns about PTO, wellness programs, remote working options, and other benefits. 

Increased salary, telemedicine options, and elevated benefits are top retention methods 

News outlets have been focused on pay raises for minimum wage workers, but everyone in the workforce is looking to increase their compensation due to skyrocketing inflation. Not every practice can do this, but those that can, should. It doesn’t have to be a huge raise to make a difference, either. Respondents who received a raise or a one-time bonus said it was between 1% and 3% of their base salary (63%).

If a pay raise isn’t in the cards for your organization, there are many other routes you can take. One example is the flexibility that remote work offers. Adopted in response to the pandemic, now there’s no going back—even for healthcare practices. When realistic, give your employees flexibility over when and where they can work.

Here is the full breakdown of top burnout alleviators:

  • Increased salary (64% of respondents)
  • Offering remote working options via telemedicine (59%)
  • Increased PTO (56%)
  • Offering more flexible work hours or adjusted shift lengths (54%)
  • Offering a one-time bonus (54%)
  • Providing mental health support and/or grief counseling (48%)
  • Sponsored wellness programs to mitigate stress (47%)
  • Offering referral bonuses to existing employees to incentivize recruiting (42%)

Qualified employees are incredibly valuable in the healthcare industry right now, and employee retention and recruitment is the key to continuing to provide quality care to patients. Hospitals and practice owners must invest in their employees in order to make it through the current worker shortage.

It’s time to listen to your employees and take definitive action, whether that be offering a pay raise or any of the additional benefits listed above. Always remember that listening to and rewarding your employees results in happier patients, and potentially better patient outcomes. When medical employers address internal challenges, it improves their reputation and makes recruitment easier. 

Lisa Hedges is an associate principal medical analyst at Software Advice, a company that helps businesses across multiple industries—including healthcare—navigate the software buying journey through personalized recommendations, objective research, and actionable insights.

Survey methodology

Healthcare Employee Retention Survey, 2021
Software Advice conducted this survey in October 2021. We used screening questions to capture 987 medical employees (excluding practice owners, founders, and executives) who have been working at a healthcare facility with no more than 20 licensed providers for at least six months. From there, we further narrowed the respondents down to 278 who have considered leaving their current jobs since the onset of the pandemic, but haven’t yet.

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.