Hospital exec challenge: How to attract, retain staff as talent pool shrinks

In the wake of a recent report that hospitals are on pace to replace virtually half their staff every 5 years, hospital executives are beginning to pay more attention to attracting and retaining talent.

Indeed, more than 90% of 301 hospital executives said they expect their organizations will face a serious talent shortage in the next 10 years that will affect their ability to deliver high-quality care, according to a survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit commissioned by Prudential Retirement, the second in an annual series that examines trends and challenges that impact the U.S. hospital sector.

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Seventy percent of those surveyed said their organizations need to pay more attention to attracting and retaining talent. Physician and nurse shortages have long been predicted, a problem intensified by looming retirements of baby boomers.

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“Given the staffing shortages hospitals are facing because of an aging workforce and the increasing competition for talent in any given geographic region, it’s imperative that hospital decision-makers rethink their approach to talent management to attract and retain the best medical professionals for their organizations,” Scott Boyd, senior vice president, head of tax-exempt markets at Prudential Retirement, said in the survey announcement.

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Two-thirds of executives at hospitals with more than 1,000 employees said in the survey that they are either already facing a nursing shortage or expect one within three years. Executives at hospitals of all sizes report the most difficulty attracting specialist nurses (48%), specialist doctors (44%) and generalist physicians (41%).

Boyd recommended that hospitals start thinking about recruitment incentives beyond compensation, such as retirement plans, to attract and retain employees. Student loan repayment options are becoming more popular and are especially attractive to doctors and nurses who typically graduate with sizable student loan debt, he said.

Other strategies that hospitals use to attract talent, according to the survey, include flexible work arrangements and opportunities for training and professional advancements. And a low-cost but effective way to make employees happy: Offer small prizes and rewards to recognize their accomplishments.