Putting Certainty in Uncertainty: Diagnosing the Future Trends of Healthcare Staffing

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Posted by Tammy Browning

June 2, 2014

shutterstock_163447052As health care staffing and life science staffing face great change, one thing remains the same: Those companies that will thrive will do so because of their people and the talent they attract and retain.

Few industries have ever faced the degree of change now confronting American health care and life sciences. New technologies, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the end of blockbuster drugs, and the rise of personalized medicine will forever change an industry that today accounts for more than one-sixth of the American economy.

The entire American health care system is being reinvented. Who wins and who loses depends on the quality of people an organization can attract and the talent it can apply to solving the incredible number of challenges now upon us. This new patient-focused, results-driven world has cut funding and investments and requires smart organizations to become more nimble and responsive.


The Future Trends of Healthcare Staffing

At the same time, a mind-boggling number of medical advances places us closer to solving the riddles of human health. Genome sequencing has unraveled the mysteries of our very DNA, bringing with it treatments and protocols personalized to the individual. But proving the efficacy of sequencing-based, patient-specific processes, finding the dollars to bring them to market, and making them available on a mass scale demands high-level talent. In fact, talent is now the great differentiator—not just the quality but also the management of that talent.

Here’s where the opportunities exist now and what every organization needs to know at this stage of industry change.


The Direction of Health Care Jobs

For every health care niche, there will be those that surge ahead and those that fall behind. Classical clinical research is already feeling the strain. “Big pharma is getting squeezed on many fronts,” says Tammy Browning, Senior Vice President of Operations for Yoh. “On the one hand, the era of blockbuster drugs is coming to a close and with it the massive investment pharma makes to bring a drug to market. On the other hand, the Affordable Care Act redefines how the industry will be reimbursed, placing emphasis on results instead of procedures or prescriptions.”

Ironically, as clinical employment slackens, the need to manage the recruitment, onboarding, and training of clinical talent becomes even more critical. As drug companies are being forced to do more with less, they need to re-evaluate their hiring practices. More are turning to contingent and temporary clinicians in order to avoid long-term fixed costs or permanent workforces. “Contingent or temporary workers provide the flexibility clinical research and drug companies need to meet uncertain program demands, where development can be quickly shut off or accelerated according to demand, reimbursement, and policy decisions,” says Browning.    

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that these companies work closely with staffing firms deeply embedded in clinical research and can quickly tap talent communities, building a pipeline of potential candidates ready for deployment. “It goes without saying that in times of uncertainty, the need for smarter, more effective, and less costly talent management can define the very success of new drug development, product extension, or commercialization,” says Browning. “It’s at these times when partnership becomes more critical.”

Unexpected Opportunities

While clinical research tightens its belt, other areas of health care offer broader horizons. Personalized treatments promise to revolutionize human health. Someday soon, we all may have our genome sequenced, providing doctors a roadmap into a precise treatment that will only work for an individual patient. Achieving that result requires a mesh of clinical, IT, big data, and even quantum computing talent that will work as a team to treat patients’ unique cases.

“Personalized medicine will open entirely new employment markets because of the connection between technology and health care,” adds Browning. “The ability to capture, curate, and analyze huge amounts of data generated through clinical trials, medical journal publishing, and DNA sequencing will bring together clinician and technician as they sort through billions of options for the effective treatment of disease.”

Staffing firms that straddle the line between health care and technology can provide tremendous value. It’s estimated today that America will need 1.5 million data scientists and engineers—an emerging job category. To find this talent, firms will need to tap very specific talent communities populated on one side by Ph.D.-quality engineers and on the other, bachelor-degreed clinicians who can apply advanced findings to treatment.

“In itself, personalized medicine will fundamentally rework the talent equation in health care,” says Browning, “an eventuality that every health care provider and life sciences company must prepare for now.”


The Explosion of Occupational Health

Once the backwater of American health care, occupational health will take on new importance under the ACA and as employers are called upon to impact behaviors that reduce health costs. Already, a Philadelphia-based health care chain has announced that it will no longer hire smokers. But it isn’t heartless. The company has charged its internal occupational health professionals with developing a range of programs to affect behavior, such as smoking cessation, weight loss, fitness, and diabetes management and control. “Occupational health care will take on a new and important role, opening new jobs and employment opportunity,” says Browning. 

Some of that growth will come from insurance and claims management firms. These companies are morphing and positioning themselves as partners in the health of their clients’ employees. That can take the form of online and telephone support and consultation—one-on-one counseling to help manage chronic or lifestyle diseases, thereby reducing incidents that spike costs. “We see huge employment opportunity in this domain,” continues Browning. “Nurses, clinicians, physician assistants, and health educators are going to be asked to support an entire health care system through advice and education.” Finding these people—many of whom have not yet been minted—will require new levels of expertise and imagination, a challenge that staffing solutions firms, like Yoh, are already moving to meet by expanding their traditional footprint in health care and life sciences.


An Aging Population

All this change comes at a time when baby boomers are aging and their demand for health care is increasing. That demographic fact places new considerations on both industry and employees. The RN workforce, for example, is expected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, with the need for an additional 525,000 replacement nurses, bringing the total number of open nursing positions to 1.05 million by 2022.

Finding these professionals requires fresh and innovative approaches to talent recruitment and retention. “We’re going to see health care and life sciences adopt recruitment practices now common in other areas of the economy,” says Browning. “In areas such as engineering and IT, where talent is at a premium, companies are outsourcing all or parts of their recruitment process in order to gain the efficiency and accountability that a specialized partner brings to the equation.”

While uncertainty brings with it a great deal of stress and concern, there are solutions, models of recruitment management that will be applied to the quickly changing health care environment. For those companies that embrace these new models, and work closely with their workforce management partners, there’s much to gain in calming the chaos and finding opportunities hidden within the change.

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Tammy is Sr. Vice President Operations and is responsible for strategy and management of Yoh’s Field Offices that support Information Technology, Engineering and Health Care clients. Her team provides staffing services to hundreds of clients and thousands of skilled workers at sites across the country. Tammy and her team of local and regional staffing professionals are in the trenches every day, making sure our clients get the skills they need and our employees can fulfill their career ambitions.

Topics: Recruiting Trends, Healthcare Staffing Agencies

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