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A Call to Action for Hospitals: “We’re going to have deaths”

Healthcare is now the fastest-growing industry in the nation, partly because people are living longer and partly because the Baby Boomer generation—the largest generation of the 20th century and the largest percentage of the healthcare workforce—is now entering their retirement years.

The team at XYZ University works with clients worldwide. In our travels, we learn about industries and see firsthand how generation gaps are threatening the future of workplaces, governments, and membership associations. Sarah Sladek shares her insights from South Carolina Hospital Association’s 2017 Transforming Health Symposium.

A Call to Action for Hospitals: “We’re going to have deaths”

Can you imagine a community without healthcare? It’s a very real and serious challenge as our nation is now facing a healthcare workforce shortage. 

Healthcare is now the fastest-growing industry in the nation, partly because people are living longer and partly because the Baby Boomer generation—the largest generation of the 20th century and the largest percentage of the healthcare workforce—is now entering their retirement years.

In other words, we’re on the brink of the perfect storm: more healthcare is needed and there’s not enough healthcare professionals to provide it.

In 2016, The Atlantic reported that an estimated 700,000 nurses will retire or leave the workforce within the next 7 years. Already, hospitals in the United States lose an average of $5-$8 million annually in employee turnover costs, and this turnover is most evident among young people.

As a result, employee retention has become the key strategic imperative for 90% of U.S. hospitals.

South Carolina is already experiencing a shortage of 2,000 nurses, with a projected loss of 6,800 nurses within the next 10 years. In January, Columbia’s Channel 7 news reported on the critical shortage of nurses in the state. In the report a source from the University of South Carolina boldly stated:

“We’re going to have deaths. We’re going to have unintentional injuries happen. Right now, across the state, we have a critical shortage of nurses at the bedside.”

XYZ University’s team has worked with healthcare organizations in Minnesota, Oregon, Iowa, Illinois, and Georgia, and the concerns remain the same wherever you go. There aren’t enough young workers to replace the retiring workers. Turnover and staffing shortages are skyrocketing, and it’s largely because hospitals are struggling to recruit and retain young talent.

The struggle to engage young talent largely stems from the hospital culture, which is usually rooted in hierarchy, schedules and processes, and outdated technology. In the world of healthcare, young professionals are still expected to ‘pay their dues’, working the worst shifts and longest hours. I’ve heard the phrase ‘We eat our young’ frequently mentioned in healthcare circles, referring to the harsh treatment and criticism that’s given to young professionals as a common, and even expected, practice. Needless to say, teamwork is a challenge, and negativity and turnover have become the side effects.

In his opening remarks at the Transforming Health Symposium, Thornton Kirby, CEO of the South Carolina Hospital Association, explained the four pillars of the association’s Destination Health campaign:

·      influencing health policy,

·      delivering highly reputable care,

·      building healthier communities, and

·      developing a healthy workforce. 

In my opening keynote, which followed his remarks, I noted that none of this matters unless South Carolina’s hospitals can develop a workforce. That one pillar, in my opinion, is the only thing that matters right now. Without talent, everything else is impossible. Without talent, our healthcare—and our health—is at risk. Recruiting and retaining talent must be the imperative in each and every hospital in each and every community. 

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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