Skip to main content

The Balancing Act of Clinician Supply and Demand

 |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   December 01, 2017

"The idea of, ‘What are we doing to prepare for the future?' is really critical," says Carolyn Jacobson, chief human resources officer at Fairview. "The shortages right now are really challenging for our operational leaders. [We need to be] thinking about how we create programs and processes to continually build our talent pool so that our time to fill is as short as possible [to] lessen the impact on our operational areas."

This requires looking not just at the number of clinicians but their skills and experience as well.

One example of this is operating room nurses.

According to the 2014 Association of periOperative Registered Nurses Salary and Compensation Survey, approximately 13% of the 3,437 respondents were at least 60 years old; 38% were in their 50s; 27% in their 40s; and only 23% were under age 40. Of the perioperative nurses surveyed 64% planned to retire by 2022.

"In nursing, we're seeing some of the same trends, where you have older nurses in the operating room, older nurses in behavioral, older nurses in PACU," Beeth says.

That is why the organization has developed an internal program to train nurses in the perioperative specialty so that they can fill critical perioperative nursing vacancies within Fairview.

As part of the perioperative program, the cost of each nurse's education is paid and nurses earn a salary while they learn. The program includes classroom, lab, and clinical practicum and lasts about six months. Those who complete the program commit to working in an accepted position for a minimum of two years.

"Ninety percent of the nurses hired in our periop areas come from our internal operating room program," Beeth explains. "We run that program proactively several times a year, because as an aging workforce, people are exiting, but we're also training all year long on that. In addition, perioperative skills are not part of the prelicensure nursing curriculum while they attend college, so it is critical we have pipelines in place to teach these additional skills."

Beeth advises leaders not to overlook nursing students or new graduates as potential employment candidates.

"As the workforce ages and we have less people coming into healthcare, you're going to end up with this imbalance somewhere."

"Ideally everyone wants an experienced nurse—baccalaureate or above—but you have to be open to absolutely looking at new grads," she says. "You're not going to get out of this challenge without doing some work to invest in the new grad's journey to become a nurse," she says.

Last year, Fairview converted about 600 students, in nursing and other fields, to new hires.

"Those numbers are because you're working with them, people are familiar with them, and they want to hire them," she says.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.