Preparing for the Silver Tsunami: Why Developing the Next Generation of Healthcare Leaders is Key to Industry Sustainability

Updated on May 26, 2023

The United States is on the brink of a seismic demographic shift, with the entire Baby Boom Generation expected to be older than 65 by 2030, making one in five residents retirement age, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

By 2034 – just 11 years from now – there will be more people over 65 than under 18 for the first time in history. This impending “Silver Tsunami” poses a significant challenge to the already strained healthcare industry, which has been grappling with workforce shortages further exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19 and post-pandemic labor market realities.

But this workforce shortage is not only the result of external forces. It is simply a symptom of the larger problem the healthcare industry faces when it comes to recruitment and retention.

While healthcare organizations have often resorted to temporary measures, such as partnering with external staffing companies and recruiting traveling nurses to fill interim positions, this approach only provides a short-term fix. It is merely a band-aid solution that does not address the long-term sustainability of the workforce. 

Far too often organizations are looking outside of their communities for critical mid and high-level leadership roles. A more viable and lasting solution lies in identifying and cultivating the next generation of leaders within an organization. 

Recognizing the strengths and ceilings of current employees, developing clear career growth paths, and empowering individuals with opportunities, and rewards, for challenging the status quo are practices that elevate efficiency and innovative capabilities. That in turn gives employees reasons to stay motivated in their jobs, as they are provided an environment that allows them to leverage their skills, gain valuable experience, earn promotions, and ultimately succeed.  Afterall, these individuals have already demonstrated a commitment to the organization and the community.

Attracting talent is important, but retaining that existing talent is equally, and perhaps more, crucial for the sustainability of the healthcare industry in the face of the looming “Silver Tsunami.”

Healthcare organizations must adopt more strategic and sustainable approaches to recruitment and retention. Taking the time now to really understand the capabilities of the people who are already committed to the success of the organization will pay dividends down the road.

When our team works with a new healthcare partner, our goals are not only to support financial health and operational efficiency, but to explore the opportunities that lie within. We help teams determine how to best identify, invest, train and elevate their own people. Sometimes, it takes an outside perspective to look inward. 

The next generation of leaders is often already present within organizations. All that is needed is recognition and support to unleash their potential. 

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Ryan O’Hara

Ryan O’Hara is the Divisional Vice President of Revenue Cycle Consulting for Acclara and is based in Arizona.