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Don’t Eat Your Young

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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. A report from 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.”

Since 2013, XYZ University has celebrated Halloween by reporting on the scariest workforce stats and we felt it was important to spotlight the healthcare industry this year, especially considering these industry stats:

  1. Approximately 1 million nurses will retire in the next 10-15 years.

  2. One-third of new U.S. jobs in the next decade will be in the healthcare industry.

  3. Employee turnover in healthcare professions is rising and 25% of last year’s hospital turnover was employees with less than one year of tenure, many of whom are Millennials.

  4. The turnover of a single physician represents at least a $200,000 loss for an organization.

XYZ University’s team has worked with healthcare organizations nationwide, and the concerns are universal: there simply 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talent largely stems from the hospital culture, which is usually rooted in hierarchy, schedules and processes, and outdated technology.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.

We can and must do better. Without talent, our nation’s 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.

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