These layoffs should be put in their proper context. While certainly painful for the people who lose their jobs, the healthcare sector remains one of the most vibrant job growth areas of the economy. Hospitals created 33,400 new jobs in 2009, and skilled clinicians are still in high demand in most areas of the nation.
The overall healthcare sector—which includes everything from hospitals to outpatient surgery centers to podiatrists' offices—has created 631,000 jobs since the recession began in December 2007. In that same time frame, the number of jobless people in the nation has risen from 7.7 million to 15.3 million, BLS figures showed.
Cherner says he is "still bullish" that hospital hiring in 2010 will be a lot stronger than it was in 2009. "Certainly, once we get some clarity around healthcare reform and people start to make sense of it, that we will see a bit more stability," he says.
Judging by the BLS data, this recession has changed the way that hospitals regard staffing. Because labor costs are the biggest driver in hospital costs, hospitals will contain these costs by continuously examining their staffing needs. Even after the recession, we will continue to see these staffing adjustments–some big, most small—in the months and years ahead. Employees with adaptable skills will transition into new roles within their hospitals. Employees without those skills will be left behind.