Five questions with Ralph Henderson about the healthcare workforce

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Ralph Henderson is President, Professional Services and Staffing, at AMN Healthcare. AMN is the nation's leader and innovator in healthcare staffing and workforce solutions services.

What does the future look like for healthcare workforce supply and demand?

Demand for healthcare professionals continues to run at all-time highs. We don't see anything on the horizon that is going to dramatically increase the supply of nurses, physicians and allied professionals. Nor do we see anything that will dramatically decrease the rise in demand for their healthcare services. Of course, there always will be some ups and downs, but those won't change the supply and demand trajectories that we are seeing now.

Demand for services is driven by:
• The Affordable Care Act has added 20 million people to the roles of the insured.
• Our population is aging; overall healthcare utilization increases significantly with age.
• An improving economy and lower unemployment rates mean people have more employer-provided health insurance and more money in their pockets for co-pays and deductibles.
• The transformation of our healthcare systems is requiring many new and emerging care provider roles – like care coordinators, coders and a variety of executive functions.

While most healthcare professional education programs are producing more graduates, these increases are modest and won't cover demand. Besides, healthcare providers need experienced clinicians. And that exposes what may be the biggest problem: The healthcare workforce is older than the general population, so we are facing a tidal wave of retirements of experienced workers. That will make supply problems even worse.

How serious is the problem of unfilled healthcare jobs?
This is a tough and generally unrecognized challenge. In the healthcare staffing industry, we know about this problem first-hand because none of us are able to fill all of the orders we receive for healthcare professionals. This problem has been measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose data shows that the gap between healthcare job openings and healthcare job hires has been growing since about mid-2014. Right now, that gap is running at 500,000 unfilled jobs. A Kiplinger economist told me recently that if all healthcare jobs were filled, it would measurably decrease the national unemployment rate. The healthcare industry as a whole needs to recognize that it will continue to be difficult for organizations to find all the quality professionals that they need. So they really need to take a hard look at their processes for sourcing clinical talent, increasing preceptor programs and improving the deployment and retention of existing staff.

Why are executive healthcare leadership positions so important today?
The healthcare industry has become significantly more complex in recent years because of the growing imperative for quality, changing regulatory requirements, mergers resulting in larger and more sophisticated systems, and advances in technology that must be implemented to remain competitive. On top of that is the supply and demand imbalance of healthcare professionals, which requires stronger workforce optimization skills. In this rapidly changing environment, excellence in leadership is vital. A vacancy in a clinical or administrative leadership position for even a short period of time can have repercussions on care quality and the bottom line. To maintain quality of care and to maximize revenue, care providers need help from executive leadership experts that specialize in healthcare organizations, so that interim and permanent hires can be accomplished quickly with the best possible person filling the role.

How has the process of sourcing professional staff changed in recent years for healthcare organizations?
It's changed completely. They old ways of posting open jobs and waiting for applicants to come to your door just won't work today. Healthcare organizations must tap into the most advanced sourcing methods available to staff their facilities with quality professionals. Many organizations don't have the in-house capacity that's required in today's extremely competitive jobs marketplace. The 21st century process for finding the right nurses, physicians and allied professionals requires the widest possible digital footprint, engaging quality clinicians through the largest clinical database and activating them with an expert recruitment team – all of which is driven by the engine of candidate insight and analytics. Without this cutting-edge digital approach, healthcare organizations are at a real disadvantage in the current war for talent.

Why has AMN Healthcare grown so much in recent years?
AMN recognized early on that evolving healthcare market dynamics, new technologies and changes in worker behavior would impact our clients' talent requirements. We made investments in systems and acquired top companies which, when combined with our core businesses, make us the undisputed leader in finding, deploying and retaining healthcare professionals. As new challenges emerged, our clients have turned to us for even more help and greater creativity in problem-solving. We're helping clients maximize and optimize their staff through workforce solutions, such as Managed Services Programs (MSP), Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), and predictive analytics that accurately forecast patient demand. With the industrywide need for quality leadership, we've expanded to include the nation's top interim leadership and executive search experts. We are constantly improving and expanding our expertise and capacity to help providers find quality nurses, physicians and allied professionals. Today, we have the nation's largest clinical database and most effective recruitment operation. AMN has grown to provide the most comprehensive array of workforce services so that our clients can maintain their focus on excellence in patient care in the increasingly complex world of healthcare.

Learn More
21st Century Sourcing: Solving the Healthcare Supply-Demand Crunch
How to Succeed in the War for Talent
Progressive Solutions for Filling Healthcare Jobs

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