During the height of the pandemic, around the world, millions of people witnessed the acts of bravery and dedication on the part of our frontline heroes in health care. This inspired a flood of public appreciation and praise.
But while this acknowledgment is rightly deserved, we should remember that it wasn’t just doctors, nurses, and emergency workers who were pulling out all the stops and working around the clock to help save lives.
A large portion of health care staff comprises lower-paid workers such as housekeepers, cooks, cleaners, maintenance people, medical records clerks, and front desk and administrative staff.
They, too, were putting their lives at risk during the pandemic, yet they typically receive less recognition – and pay – for the work they do.
The vast majority of healthcare workers often have less access to a multitude of things including less access to protective equipment during the pandemic, which put them at greater risk of falling ill. A large percentage of these workers are women and people of color, and their median pay is generally low. A recent survey revealed that nearly half of low-wage workers had trouble paying their bills during the pandemic and around a third struggled to pay their rent or mortgage.
As a result, we’ve seen an unprecedented exodus of health care staff over the last year – largely due to stress and burnout, poor wages, inflexible schedules, long shifts, and a lack of opportunity for career advancement.
Nearly 1 in 5 health care workers have quit their jobs during the pandemic, while another 12% have been laid off. Among health care workers who have kept their jobs during the pandemic, 31% have considered leaving, and 12% of health care workers say they plan to retire early or work elsewhere.
As we shine the spotlight on the growing health care skills shortage, let’s also explore some of the key reasons people are leaving, and suggest some ways employers can better support workers and attract new skills.
In a recent poll, health care workers cited employment issues as some of the top reasons for leaving their jobs, while 50% said they were looking for better pay or benefits. The same percentage said they’d found a better opportunity elsewhere, while 44% reported that they were looking for more career growth.
Many health care workers believe that they’re underpaid for the time and effort they invest in their work, not to mention the health risks they’re exposed to in their day-to-day jobs. PayScale reports that nurses earn up to $43 an hour and other medical assistants between $12 and $21. Clearly, for many, this isn’t sufficient to make ends meet and isn’t commensurate with the demands of their line of work. While The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported a steady increase in health care worker salaries over the last few years, many of those working in the sector believe more needs to be done.
The U.S. has an aging population, which means that increasing numbers of people need medical care for various conditions and ailments. All this means that the demand for health care workers in all fields and roles is rising. Now, there’s a severe shortage of these workers which often results in employees being required to work more or longer shifts. This can introduce unmanageable workloads, which can put the quality of patient care at risk.
Those working in the health care sector—everyone from doctors and nurses to administrative and cleaning/maintenance staff – are more prone to experiencing stress and burnout given the pressure they experience in their roles and the prevailing skills shortages. A U.S. News report reveals that 60 to 75% of clinicians experience depression, exhaustion, and sometimes even sleep disorders. Establishing an acceptable work/life balance in the health care sector is a challenge, and hospitals have an important role in establishing that balance for their employees.
Health care workers are often expected to work 12-hour days or overnight shifts. A recent WHO study revealed this can be detrimental to a worker’s health and discovered a correlation between working more than 55 hours a week and serious health conditions like heart disease. Sometimes inflexible schedules result in employees being unable to attend family gatherings or celebrate important milestones like a birthday or wedding anniversary. This often makes health care workers pause and reevaluate their lives and careers.
The current lack of health care skills spells bad news for health care employers on several levels. Almost 8 in 10 health care professionals said the national worker shortage has affected them and their place of work.
The cost of recruitment is significant, and timelines to fill open roles are often long, especially for more senior-level employees. However, it’s also costly and time-consuming to find general medical staff. Entry-level revenue cycle talent (0-5 years), on average, costs $2,167 for recruitment, and it takes 84 days to fill vacant roles.
Without sufficient, qualified staff, health care providers inevitably need to limit the number of patients they can treat or risk compromising the level of care they offer. This can harm their bottom line.
Here are some strategies that health care providers can explore to ensure they’re more able to retain their current workers and recruit new, scarce talent to create a mutually beneficial relationship and ultimately help everyone involved.
Offering people better salaries is an obvious way to entice people to join your health care organization and encourage them to stay.
It’s a good idea to consider cross-training employees so that people can take turns doing tasks, which will help alleviate overwork and burnout.
Look for ideas to improve your level and quality of communication with your staff. This will ensure you get to know about any problems early. It will also make people feel that they matter, which will enhance overall employee engagement.
It’s a good idea to conduct employee surveys regularly. Find out your people’s levels of job satisfaction and get constructive feedback on what can be done to improve their working conditions.
Yes, most people work to make money, but compensation isn’t the only factor they consider when looking for a job or deciding to stay in one. So, consider offering a suite of benefits that your workers won’t find easily elsewhere. This could include:
Earned Wage Access is a simple way to give health care employees access to money they’ve earned but not yet collected between paychecks. Payactiv’s EWA solution uses API integration through HR systems that health care facilities already use, making it a seamless experience for employees and employers.
Once they’ve signed up, your employees can access their wages directly from a mobile app, and we even offer an “every day pay” option. Allowing employees to access funds at any time lets them live the life they’ve earned. You can communicate your EWA benefit as a competitive advantage when seeking new hires.
Payactiv also makes it easy for you to allow your employees more flexibility. Employees can securely access your company’s shift scheduling platform and see who they might want to swap shifts with or even pick up a few extra shifts if they’re looking to earn a little more money.
Payactiv’s digital communication platform is also a great way to increase engagement. People who aren’t desk-bound and don’t have access to a computer can catch up with the latest news and company announcements while they’re on the go via the mobile app. They also have access to in-app discounts, ree financial coaching, and savings and budgeting tools.
Health care workers are the essential lifeblood of our economy and they should be treated as such. By doing so, and affording these workers the respect, dignity, and support they deserve, healthcare providers will see increases in retention and recruitment, and workers currently struggling on the frontlines will experience unprecedented support.
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