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As the industry debate surrounding the shortage of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers continues to intensify, many senior leaders have been given to dire predictions:
"In five years, as more hospitals adopt physician-employment models, we'll need more physician leaders to run hospitals, but we won't have enough who are qualified."
"Five years from now, the majority of CNOs will retire, and we won't have enough qualified nurse managers to take their place."
"Millennials don't want to manage. In five years, we won't have enough middle managers."
"We definitely won't have enough radiologists and lab technicians five years from today."
With so much apprehension about the future of healthcare staffing, one might wonder who will be left in five years to run the nation's hospitals. But some forward- thinking healthcare leaders are changing the way they look at the work force—and how they hire—in an effort to keep current employees and attract new ones.
Three years ago, when North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York was developing a neurosciences program, leaders realized that they didn't have enough EEG technicians. Through a partnership with a local university, they created their own EEG technician training program. Employees attended North Shore-LIJ's "corporate university" two nights a week for 15 months. At the end of the course, the organization graduated 17 EEG technicians—more than enough to staff the service line—and advanced the careers of 17 employees.
Other hospitals are solving their shortages with flexibility. Some offer nurses travel and job-sharing opportunities. A cold-weather hospital, for example, might partner with a hospital in Florida to enable nurses to travel in the winter months, then return to their home base in the spring. Other organizations have discovered that they don't even need as many nurses as they once thought. These hospitals are using nursing assistants, other staff, even family members to take on roles that don't require a nursing degree.
A few hospitals, like Chilton Memorial Hospital in New Jersey, are even flexible when it comes to employee departures. Chilton President and CEO Deborah Zastocki says if a good employee leaves her community hospital to try a job at a larger tertiary system, she leaves the door open for that employee to one day return—and many employees do.
Regardless of what the future holds for healthcare and hospitals, healthcare leaders will need to create work environments that attract the brightest and best of the new generation, as well as experienced managers who can lead and inspire. It's no longer enough just to emulate the hospital next door when it comes to finding and keeping good employees. Recruitment and retention must be based on the best practices out there, even if they're not found in healthcare.
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