Unfilled vacancies take toll on hospitals, workers

The length of time it takes to hire nurses and allied health staff is having a negative effect on healthcare organizations, particularly overworked employees who suffer from low morale and patients who don't get attention when they need it, according to a new Career Builder study.

Hiring managers surveyed report 48 percent of nursing jobs are going unfilled for six weeks or longer, on average, and 20 percent have had nursing vacancies for as long as 12 weeks. Thirty-nine percent of allied health jobs are vacant for six weeks or longer.

The nation-wide survey--conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 14 to June 5--included 200 full-time private sector hiring managers and HR professionals for healthcare employees. The hiring managers admitted that the extended vacancies were taking its toll on their organizations. They reported such negative effects as:

  • Low employee morale due to overworked staff  (36 percent)
  • Not as much time to give patients attention (20 percent)
  • Higher voluntary turnover (11 percent)
  • More mistakes in administration of patient care (10 percent)

Why are positions staying open so long? "Filling key positions is far from easy," said Jason Lovelace, president of CareerBuilder Healthcare. "Organizations are struggling to find a balance between bringing in new talent and hiring experienced industry veterans capable of stepping into stressful environments with little ramp-up time."

Indeed, 65 percent of healthcare employers said recruiting nurses is particularly difficult. They reported:

  • I need to hire experienced nurses, not new graduates (24 percent)
  • I need nurses trained in a specialized area (22 percent)
  • My organization isn't able to offer competitive pay (19 percent)
  • Lack of graduates with nursing degrees (11 percent)

Sixty-two percent of employers say they plan to hire healthcare workers and provide additional training. Of those employers currently hiring nurses, 41 percent say they're only looking for experienced nurses.

Lovelace says organizations need to take proactive recruitment strategies that focus on building pipelines and observing relevant workforce analytics. Those strategies include developing pathways for new graduates, he said.

Dan Zuhlke, vice president of human resources for the 22-hospital Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, expressed similar sentiments in a recent FierceHealthcare ebook, Human Management in Healthcare: Hiring Right to Meet the Demands of Healthcare Reform.

He suggested organizations partner with their nearby high schools, colleges and universities to create relationships with students in health IT, nursing and other programs who will soon be entering the job market. Hospitals can support educational programs to augment their labor force, such as by offering internships and residency programs.

To learn more:
- Read the survey announcement