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Paging Critical Care Talent

Health care facilities such as the Lakeland Regional Medical Center have to strategize to attract and retain top talent needed to meet increasing demands for service brought on by economic change and health care reform.

December 12, 2010
Related Topics: Technology
KEYWORDS technology
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Today’s challenging economic conditions have reduced compensation and insurance coverage for many. That, combined with health care reform measures that provide greater access to care, is driving consumers across the United States to hospital emergency rooms and health care clinics in record rates.

The situation at central Florida’s Lakeland Regional Medical Center mirrors the rest of the nation. Growing numbers of people are heading to hospitals and health care facilities for clinical care, surgeries, medical procedures, lab tests and therapy, which is fueling the need for skilled clinical and non-clinical health care talent to meet the demand for services.

Located midway between Tampa and Orlando, Lakeland Regional is a private, nonprofit facility that has served Polk County, Florida’s largest county, and the surrounding community for more than 80 years. The facility operates the busiest emergency room in the state and was the first in the region to offer open-heart procedures, including less-invasive robotic surgery. Lakeland Regional’s cancer program is known for its oncologists and surgeons, but also for its treatment of female reproductive cancers.

Critical Care Requires Top Talent
Lakeland Regional’s human resources department fills more than 1,300 positions annually. The department handles talent acquisition and management facility-wide, with the exception of physicians, who are recruited by an internal physician recruiter.

Lakeland Regional fills a wide range of positions, from nurses, radiologists and lab techs to information technology, marketing, administrative, food service, environmental, financial, claims and patient registration workers. Each time the facility expands or offers new services to serve its growing patient base, the need for the right talent also rises.

According to Jeffery Payne, vice president of human resources for Lakeland Regional, who also has served as president of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA), “Due to the economic environment in the last 18 to 24 months — where many people are losing jobs or are experiencing wage reductions — our hospital facility is serving more and more patients who don’t have access to personal physicians. And, as more people are seeking access to care due to health legislation, we expect this growth to continue.”

Adding to the challenge of more patients seeking care is a shortage of workers for many types of health care positions due to the general aging of the working population and the need to train for highly specific skills. For example, the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) Center for Workforce Studies recently updated its projections of physician supply and demand to account for the impact of 30 million new patients under health care reform. According to the AAMC’s June 2010 report “How to Deal with the Physician Shortage,” the nation is currently short almost 14,000 physicians, and by 2025, that gap may reach 130,600 physicians.

“With many practice panels full and others scrambling to recruit physicians — especially in primary care — imagine what things might be like 15 years from now, with a tenfold increase in the shortage of physicians,” Payne said. “Unless something is done, the report indicates that such a supply/demand imbalance within the American health care system may be catastrophic.”

Other caregivers are already in short supply. A January 2010 American Hospital Association study, “Workforce 2015, Strategy Trumps Shortage,” by Dr. Peter Buerhaus and colleagues at Vanderbilt University, projected a shortage of 260,000 registered nurses by 2025. Adding to the dilemma, the nation’s academic medical programs have neither the capacity nor faculty members to train the care professionals required to meet projected future demands.

These trends are driving the need to increase the supply of the physicians as well as other types of health care workers nationally — providing a great opportunity for those currently in the health care workforce and for those interested in entering the field.

Demand Fuels Use of Internet-Based Technology
The rising need to identify and recruit top talent promoted Lakeland Regional’s HR team to explore using the Internet and Web-based recruiting tools to help identify such talent — not only from the geographic community, but also from across the nation and even around the globe.

Historically, Lakeland Regional used several sources to find talent. In addition to the physician recruiter, the HR department had a staff of four full-time recruiters as well as a part-time resource. This team utilized traditional advertising in key magazines and newspapers, along with advertising and job postings on popular online sites such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com.

Through its association with ASHHRA, Lakeland Regional’s HR team learned of an online recruitment resource specifically designed for the health care field, in development by the American Hospital Association and its subsidiary, AHA Solutions: the National Healthcare Career Network (NHCN). Lakeland Regional quickly became a charter member of AHACareerCenter.org to support the initiative and access the talent pools aggregated through the NHCN.

Participating NHCN associations and professional societies represent multiple disciplines, including academic research; dentistry; executives; food preparation/environmental services; mental health/social services; advanced and general nursing; operations; pharmacy; and physicians and surgeons.

According to Anthony Burke, president of AHA Solutions, “Understanding that critical staffing issues can threaten hospitals’ performance and quality of patient care, the American Hospital Association co-founded the NHCN in 2008. Since its launch, the NHCN now aligns more than 230 health care trade associations and professional societies on a common technology platform, connecting more than 2 million talented association members with potential health care employers.”

Burke said that demand for the online recruiting solutions from AHA and NHCN is strong and continues to grow. “In the fall of 2010, NHCN health care job postings rose to nearly 5,000 per month; the number of job seekers grew to 9,000 per month; and online resume postings now total more than 65,000,” he said.

Lakeland Regional has been utilizing AHACareerCenter.org since 2008. Because the facility is in need of many highly specialized professionals in niche areas, the fact that the website draws from associations within NHCN is a plus.

AHACareerCenter.org Vice President Amy Goble said, “By utilizing AHACareerCenter.org, health care facilities such as Lakeland Regional can access potential candidates from trusted health care associations within the NHCN.”

Other affiliate members include the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, the American College of Cardiology and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, to name a few. These organizations’ members are in high-demand specialties and have the certifications, skills and expertise needed to fill critical positions for health care employers. In addition to the AHA, trade associations such as the American Health Care Association represent other health care segments, such as long-term care and assisted living.

Seamless Technology Integration
Payne said Lakeland Regional was able to fuse the use of AHACareerCenter.org with its existing recruiting processes.

He said, “Because AHACareerCenter.org is Internet-based and easy to use, our HR staff could quickly take advantage of its features to identify candidates.”

Lakeland Regional had access to unlimited job postings, and the technology enabled the transfer of applicants between the AHA system and its own internal applicant management systems. “Our HR team was able to spend less time on laborious tasks such as processing candidates, which allows our team to focus on more critical recruiting tasks,” Payne said. “AHA also offered a career center concierge to ease the transition, help[ing] our team navigate the new system, including the setup of job postings, reporting and management.”

Payne said using a job board with a health care-specific focus was beneficial.

“Due to their impersonal nature and broad focus, using popular online job boards was becoming near-taboo for our HR team,” he explained. “AHACareerCenter.org’s capabilities allow our team to cut to the chase and identify specialized health care candidates in clinical fields, such as nurses, aides, radiologists and respiratory therapists, and non-clinical positions, such as technology, marketing and finance.”

According to Payne, the applicant pool for health care is also changing. As job opportunities continue to open up, trends are emerging such as former clinical health care workers moving into new non-clinical roles and heightened interest from displaced candidates from other fields.

“We can open the door to a much more specialized group of applicants,” Payne said. “Today, we routinely recruit from other states and have even had interviews from candidates in other countries. And thanks to new Internet recruiting technologies and communication innovations such as Skype, the interviewing and selection process is more personal.”

For health care facilities such as Lakeland Regional, the need to attract and retain leading talent will continue to grow to ensure the highest standards of care possible are provided. “The opportunity within the health care industry is tremendous, and technology innovations are paving the way,” Burke said.

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