Skills Gap in Healthcare Industry Larger Than Rest of Economy
March 27, 2019
In today’s competitive job marketplace, human resource professionals are struggling to find qualified talent to fill an ever-increasing number of job openings. A recently published report is another cause for concern for human resource professionals, as it highlights how the skills gap in the healthcare industry is wider than the rest of the economy. Coupled with the fact that the healthcare industry is expected to grow over the next decade, human resource departments are stretched thin when trying to fill the growing number of positions.
According to a recent report from Indeed, the healthcare industry has the largest skills gap compared to the rest of the overall economy. This means that healthcare HR professionals who are already struggling to find qualified job seekers for current openings can only expect this problem to get worse as the healthcare industry expands and outpaces the rest of the economy in adding new jobs over the next decade.
Why Is A Skills Gap Important?
A skills gap means that there is a disconnect between what skills the employer wants in the ideal candidate and the skills that potential job seekers or candidates actually possess. Nearly every role in the healthcare industry requires significant amounts of training, practice, education, licensure, or certifications that highlight an individual’s ability to care and treat others. When job seekers don’t possess the skills that an employer wants, employers are faced with a tough question: Do they wait until the candidate pool matches the skills they need or do they sacrifice the quality of the candidate they are looking for and hope they can pick up the new skills while on the job?
This dilemma means that employers and human resource professionals often have to take a leap of faith or risk postponing their candidate search to hire a candidate later with the hopes that someone will be an ideal match down the road. Unfortunately, the answer to the question isn’t always so cut and dry. It’s not always one or the other. There are tons of variables involved that directly influence a human resource department’s decision, and increasingly complicate the issue. The talent and skills gap doesn’t suddenly get better because human resource departments stop hiring candidates for the time being with the hope that it suddenly gets better.
In most industries, companies can hire recent graduates and train them to do the job. That doesn’t work in the healthcare industry. A skills gap in the healthcare industry means that employees are less qualified to treat and care for patients. When employees are less qualified to treat and care for patients, liability increases, patient retention rates suffer, and hospital efficiency grades and effectiveness grades suffer.
One way that human resource departments are attempting to deal with this skills gap is by training or offering additional resources to job seekers to help prepare them for obtaining the ideal skills that make them the ideal fit in a hospital or healthcare facility.
The problem with this is that human resource departments are already stretched thin and their budgets are getting tighter. This means that human resource departments are less likely to invest in training materials or resources that can help prepare job seekers to learn the skills necessary to become the ideal candidate.
When employers and human resource professionals are forced to consider candidates that aren’t the ideal match or don’t match the skills they are looking for, they’re forced to “do what they can with what they have.”
Human resource professionals and staffing departments are trying to combat the growing challenges associated with the nationwide skills gap by hiring away candidates from other companies, competitors, and firms. The problem with this is that it’s only a stop-gap measure. This measure only allows HR professionals to solve the skills-gap problem momentarily but doesn’t account for the fact that it does nothing to help them prepare for the future. Not to mention, HR departments are forced to spend more money and offer more comprehensive benefits packages to candidates they are attempting to entice.
A skills gap in any industry means that human resource professionals are constantly hiring professionals who are less qualified and behind the curve when the organization needs everyone working at their full potential to meet upcoming deadlines, growth expectations, productivity goals, and more.
In the healthcare industry, those demands translate to an increasing number of aging patients who need care in numbers never seen before, and hospital and healthcare facility expansion that means more patients will need to be seen at one time than ever before.
To ensure hospitals and healthcare facilities are ready to combat these growing pains and future expectations, human resource professionals and HR departments need to take the ever-increasing talent skills gap seriously.
Why The Healthcare Industry Is Different To Others
The healthcare industry is very different compared to other industries. In other industries, skills can be picked up on the job or at a faster pace. The healthcare industry requires years of education and practice to develop the skills necessary to care for patients in a healthcare setting. In other industries, job seekers can bounce around from one career to the next because they have skills that are applicable and transferrable between occupations. The healthcare industry is different in the sense that each skill healthcare professionals learn is tailored to improving a patient’s overall condition and well-being.
In addition, the healthcare industry is different compared to other industries because it is currently the fastest growing industry, and is only expected to grow more over the next decade. This means that the healthcare industry needs to find a solution to this talent and skills gap fast to ensure continued success.
Patients don’t stop needing assistance or become ill. Patients don’t stop aging and need additional levels of care because human resource professionals decide to wait a bit longer to hire the ideal candidate because of the talent and skills gap.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, a skills gap in the healthcare industry is a major cause for concern. Compared to other industries where employees can learn the necessary skills over time, healthcare workers don’t have the luxury of learning skills over time while on the job. Patients cannot afford to wait for their immediate caretakers to learn vital skills on the job to ensure they can remain healthy. Hospitals and healthcare organizations cannot wait for their employees to get up to speed to ensure their liability is as low as it could possibly be.
The healthcare industry is also different from other industries because of the required experience for each position. One way that hospitals and healthcare facilities have attempted to make up for the skill gap is by evaluating a potential candidate’s experience level. Those candidates who have more healthcare experience are more likely to learn new skills in the rapid healthcare environment compared to those candidates who are less experienced and aren’t as comfortable to the demands of the healthcare industry.
The healthcare industry is different than other industries because the training, skills, certifications, and licensure cannot be earned overnight. As we’ve highlighted, it takes years of dedicated training and practice to become adept caring for others. In other industries, all it takes is a weekend course to receive a certification or additional licensure. Unfortunately, that’s not an option in the healthcare industry.
Another startling find in the report from Indeed, is that the healthcare industry has far fewer workers currently seeking work than other job opportunities in the economy. This means that HR professionals have less of a candidate pool to work with, making the skill gap even more significant than other industries that are also facing skill gap issues.
HR professionals in the healthcare industry are currently facing more hiring challenges than their peers in other industries due to the healthcare skills gap.
What Positions Experience The Largest Skill Gap?
The healthcare industry as a whole is facing a skills gap across the board, but there are several positions within the healthcare industry that are currently experience this skills gap in droves. The positions listed and highlighted below demonstrate the main challenges associated with the healthcare skill gap because these positions require extensive amounts of training and education.
- Registered Nurse
- Speech Language Pathologist
- Occupational Therapist
- Physical Therapist
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Nurse Practitioner
Each one of these positions requires years of experience in addition to clinical rotations, state licensure/certifications, and more. To combat the skills gap found in these positions, the healthcare industry is asking other healthcare professionals to pick up the slack. To make things worse, these healthcare professionals who are being asked to pick up the slack aren’t as qualified or experienced as the role they’re assuming some of the responsibilities for. This eventually leads to stress and burnout, which then contributes to experienced professionals looking for positions elsewhere or completely phasing out of the healthcare workforce because they no longer have the passion they once did in the healthcare industry.
Employers need to do all they can to help reduce the skills gap seen in the healthcare industry.
What Can Organizations Do To Combat The Skills Gap?
There are several things that healthcare facilities, hospitals, organizations, and human resource departments can do to help close the skills gap in the healthcare industry. The important thing to remember is that it’s not one singular thing that will help close the skills gap, it’s a combination of efforts in several different areas.
1.) Work With Colleges and Universities
One way in which organizations and HR professionals can help close the skills gap in the healthcare industry is to help colleges and universities across the country identify which types of graduates they need. For some of the more technical positoins across the country, educators need to work in collaboration with hospitals and healthcare facilities to ensure graduates are ready to meet the challenging demands of the industry in the future.
When hospitals, healthcare facilities, and HR departments work in collaboration with educators across the country they can make several things clear: 1.) The demand for educated and talented healthcare professionals for the foreseeable future, 2.) What skills graduates need to thrive in the healthcare industry, and 3.) How colleges and universities can set up students for a lifetime of success in their healthcare career.
2.) Invest In Training Materials for Current Staff
Another way that HR departments can help close the skills gap in the healthcare industry is by investing in training materials and courses for their current staff. One of the best ways to close the skills gap in the healthcare industry is to invest in the workers that already have healthcare experience. Investing in training materials and educating current staff members about what career opportunities are available to those who wish to pursue them is a great way to help increase the level of education, skills, and certifications in the industry.
Gone are the days when employers, organizations, and HR departments could expect job seekers or candidates to pursue their own training on their dime. Hospitals, healthcare facilities, and HR departments that offer some form of compensation or training assistance will help reduce the skills gap in the industry by pulling from their current talent pool.
3.) Educate Job Seekers and Graduating Students
The next way in which human resource professionals can reduce the skills gap in the healthcare industry is by educating job seekers and graduating students. Part of this process is to clearly identify what skills are necessary for each role, what skills will be needed in the future, and then list those on a Careers page, Job Seekers Info page, or inside each job posting.
In doing so, job seekers and students can gain more information about the skills necessary to succeed in a career with the hospital or healthcare facility. Instead of graduating and feeling like they need to go back to school to learn a host of new skills or receive additional certifications and licensure, job seekers and students can work towards the acquisition of these skills over time. This will lead to a more educated candidate pool who can actively work toward the acquisition of additional skills while pursuing new job opportunities.
HR departments can help reduce the burden of the ever-increasing skills gap by taking steps to reduce the barriers of learning new skills for job seekers. Whether it’s working in collaboration with educators, educating current staff members about career opportunities, providing training resources, or educating job seekers about the skills needed to succeed, human resource departments can take active steps to reduce the skills gap in the healthcare industry.