Imagine working as an employment recruiter and exhausting all your stateside resources. Still, you have thousands of positions to fill. Where do you go from here? Recruiters in the healthcare space have faced this very problem for years. Things have only been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. Without enough American workers to fill all the vacant jobs, recruiters are having to take job offers overseas.
Incidentally, this isn’t a uniquely American problem. Canada’s health system is in a similar position. Healthcare recruiters north of our border are also doing their best to recruit among overseas candidates. With any luck, they are also getting help from provincial governments willing to make it easy for overseas recruits to live and work in Canada.
Healthcare Is a Demanding Field
It is easy for the rest of us to look at the healthcare industry and scratch our heads in wonder over why such profound staffing shortages exist. After all, don’t doctors make six figures? Some types of nurses do, too. Those of us making the median salary of about $50,000 would jump at the chance to double that. But we do not understand just how demanding the healthcare field is.
Healthcare professionals are constantly dealing with human lives. They struggle to provide care under a burdensome system overwhelmed by layers of government and insurance company bureaucracy. For the most part, they just want to help patients feel better. But they are so overburdened by the rules and regulations that patients often take a back seat.
The Numbers Are Staggering
So just how bad is it in the U.S.? Statistics from the American Hospital Association suggest our system will be short in the neighborhood of 124,000 doctors and 200,000 nurses a decade from now. Just four years from now, in 2026, staffing shortages across all areas of healthcare – both clinical and allied – are expected to be in excess of three million workers.
Meanwhile, there are job candidates in other countries more than willing to come to the States to live and work. Their training may not be up to par, but that is a non-issue for employers. They are desperate enough to offer paid training and sign-on bonuses just to get workers here.
Recruiters have also resorted to offering better pay and excessive bonuses to already employed stateside workers. They use physician and nursing databases provided by companies like iMedical Data to locate and contact potential candidates they think they can lure away from their current positions. It is your classic robbing Peter to pay Paul scenario.
Better Pay Won’t Fix It
Recruiters and employers are largely relying on better pay to land workers. Better pay is a big plus, but it will not fix the problem all by itself. With large numbers of doctors and nurses complaining of burnout and excessive stress, pay and benefits can only do so much.
Burnout is caused by long hours and heavy patient loads. That is something only administrators and healthcare facilities can address. As for stress, it is the product of all sorts of factors. Long hours, heavy workloads, burdensome regulations, and bureaucratic red tape all make it unnecessarily difficult for clinicians to do their jobs. It all creates stress that pushes doctors and nurses to the breaking point.
Until we fundamentally change the way our system operates, healthcare staffing shortages will continue. Recruiters will have to keep taking job offers overseas in hopes of bringing new workers to our shores. It is not the ideal situation, nor is it the way things should be. But that’s the way things are. Recruiters must play the hands they are dealt.