The onset of COVID-19 prompted a significant shift in how many healthcare workers view the field. According to a Vivian Health study, only 53% of respondents had a positive outlook regarding the healthcare industry’s future. What’s more, 27% questioned whether staying in healthcare would lead to a prosperous career. Whereas 80% those surveyed in 2020 reported that they had no plans to leave the healthcare industry, that number dropped to 57% in 2021.

This mindset shift is resulting in an even greater dearth of licensed professionals available to healthcare employers. The ball is in the employee’s courts now and they have significant negotiating power. In order to maintain a healthy practice, employers would benefit from swiftly developing both solid recruitment strategies and incentivization plans for current employees. COVID-19 has caused 83% of Vivian respondents to report being concerned with their mental health. Given the negative effects of COVID-19 on healthcare workers’ mental health, offering benefits centered around mental health and wellness is an excellent strategy.

Hiring a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) service is a time-efficient, effective strategy in the search for qualified employees. An RPO will handle most of the preliminary work, allowing healthcare providers to focus more on their patients than on finding candidates. Once the RPO narrows it down, all the healthcare provider needs to do is interview top candidates and decide who to hire. Streamlining the process by limiting the number of interviews per candidate to no more than three can help to more quickly reach a decision. The immediate supervisor might want to interview a candidate for around an hour, but all other interviewers should take no more than half that amount of time. Furthermore, interview questions should be pre-planned, ensuring that the candidate does not answer the same questions throughout the process.

Although the candidate pool is smaller, vetting candidates is still an essential part of the process. Healthcare providers should seek out empathetic and rule-abiding employees. Asking questions about a candidate’s behavior in past patient-professional experiences is an excellent way to learn about a potential employee. Obtaining feedback from both personal and professional references is also crucial to discover a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Online accounts like LinkedIn also provide insight into a candidate’s professional associations and perhaps state board and licensing records as well.

According to the Vivian study, 32% of respondents saw decreased compensation in 2021 and 48% saw an increase in work hours. It is no surprise that 36% of respondents reported “extreme dissatisfaction” with their compensation. Given that the ball is now largely in the candidates’ court, healthcare providers have a better shot at securing qualified candidates by offering higher salaries and additional monetary incentives like sign-on bonuses and relocation packages. Once employers choose to make an offer, they should do so quickly, as the current supply-demand dynamic could lead to losing the candidate if there is a delay in communication.