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Top 10 Barriers Facing Healthcare Recruiters

Healthcare Recruiting has No Barriers to Entry, but High Barriers to Success
Rancz Andrei/

The recruitment industry can be a challenging field. In fact, it’s no surprise that 80% of the people who enter the industry fail within the first two years, never to be seen again. Certainly, there are positive aspects to being a recruiter, and many people love the field. However, the long hours, the continuous influx of rejection, and the inconsistent pay can make even the best recruiters question their career choice and even their own sanity.

If recruiting is hard, healthcare recruiting is downright torturous at times. Healthcare recruiters face challenges that employment experts in other fields just don’t experience. The healthcare industry is complicated, and that complexity trickles right down to the recruiters.

Today we delve into the many barriers that face healthcare recruiters, as well as ways to overcome those obstacles.

  1. Market demand far outpaces supply

According to WHO, there was a shortage of 7.2 million healthcare workers globally in 2013, and it is anticipated that this shortfall will reach 12.9 million by 2035. While the national unemployment rate is currently 4.1 percent, the unemployment rate for all categories of healthcare workers is 2.5 percent.

Further, according to a study released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the United States will face a shortage of over 100,000 doctors by the year 2030. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be 1 million vacant RN jobs by the year 2022, not to mention the anticipated needs for nursing assistants, home health aides, and other healthcare related professions.

As a result, there is an inverse relationship between the number of healthcare jobs available and the number of candidates to fill those roles. For recruiters, there is simply not enough talent to fill the increasing demand.

  1. Healthcare professionals have leverage

According to a survey from the American Staffing Association (ASA), healthcare industry positions held eight of the top 10 spots of the most difficult occupations to fill.

Given the fact that they are in such high demand, healthcare providers understand that they have leverage within the industry. As a result, there is a sense that healthcare recruiters need quality candidates more than candidates need them.

  1. Recruiters need to learn the language

No matter their specialty, healthcare professionals are technical experts in their fields. While nurses are dynamic, an ICU trained nurse has a very different skillset than a community health nurse. As a result, healthcare recruiters must speak an entirely different language, genuinely understanding the various skills of their candidates and needs of their clients. For recruiters without a healthcare background, this can be incredibly challenging.

  1. Healthcare organizations are complex

Compared to other organizations, hospitals have complicated organizational structures and cultures that are unique. Understanding the many layers and components of any given healthcare organization is a monumental task. While human resources (HR) sometimes oversees the recruiting or hiring process, individual departments tend to have a great deal of autonomy in making hiring decisions. As a recruiter, it can be challenging to gain access to the various hiring managers, who are ultimately the decision makers.

  1. Healthcare providers rarely sit down

Experienced recruiters will check in with candidates and hiring managers on a regular basis. As people are so inundated with e-mails in this age of information, many recruiters do their best to make phone calls or personal visits. However, unless you have access to a personal cell phone number, it’s nearly impossible to reach healthcare providers while at work. In the rare chance that you are able to get them on the phone, many will not appreciate an interruption during clinical care.

  1. Healthcare providers have very little time

Healthcare providers work very long hours. Although the average physician works between 40 and 60 hours a week, nearly a quarter of doctors’ work between 61 and 80 hours a week. Nurses and other healthcare providers often work varied shifts, and many take on overtime. As a result, healthcare workers are reluctant to speak to recruiters in their off time, which is often limited and precious.

  1. Limitations in compensation

Unlike most jobs in the private sector, compensation within the healthcare industry is often dictated by strict compensation guidelines. This is especially the case in unionized environments. As a result, healthcare recruiters are often unable to negotiate salaries as easily as they might be able to in other industries.

  1. Increasing education demands

In today’s world, new graduates in healthcare are expected to advance their careers through further education. Gone are the days when years of experience was a suitable substitute for college work.

Many organizations are seeking to meet the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) goal calling for 80 percent of the nursing workforce to have a four-year degree by 2020, up from 50 percent in 2010. As such, many hospitals are requiring nurses to obtain their bachelor’s degrees and will only hire new nurses who have a BSN. While recruiters might have stellar nursing candidates with excellent experience, selling skillsets is becoming increasingly difficult.

  1. Millennials are becoming harder to please

One of the most common complaints of more experienced healthcare professionals is that newer graduates are becoming more demanding. As most healthcare organizations revolve around seniority, seasoned nurses and other healthcare professionals have spent years sacrificing their nights, weekends, and holidays. Newer healthcare providers are demanding flexibility and a work-life balance, things that are very difficult to provide in a 24/7 operation like healthcare.

  1. Healthcare organizations looking to cut costs

Many healthcare organizations are in a logistical bind. On the one hand, they are short-staffed and in desperate need of help, yet on the other hand, they are being instructed to cut costs. As such, many organizations are slashing recruiting budgets and eliminating travelers. As they work to bring recruitment in-house, some outside recruiters are left with no access to jobs. 

The Silver Lining: Healthcare staffing market expected to grow

All hope is not lost when it comes to healthcare recruiting. As challenging as healthcare recruiting can be, an increasing geriatric population, a shortage of experienced healthcare providers, and an increase in mergers and acquisitions are leading industry experts to predict continued growth in the field. In fact, the healthcare staffing market is expected to grow by 5.4% to $43.6 billion by 2025.

The best healthcare recruiters know that the industry is one focused around relationship building. Strong recruiters who have nourished their relationships and have built a solid reputation will have no problem weathering the storm. Those who have developed and maintained a robust candidate pipeline will continue to enjoy industry success.

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About Sheramy Tsai

Sheramy Tsai is a registered nurse and freelance writer. She holds a BA from Middlebury College and a BSN from the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University. Throughout her career she has worked in various nursing specialties and most recently managed a Post Anesthesia Care Unit at a large teaching hospital. Prior to becoming a nurse, Sheramy was a successful recruiter for WinterWyman in the Boston area. When she’s not busy with her blended family of five children, she takes the time to pursue her passion for all things related to natural health and wellness.

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