The pandemic has reshaped many things in our country. But one thing is certain, it has transformed the world of health care.
Health Care: The Need
Every position in health care is important right now. Whether it is facility groundskeepers, administrative personnel, nurses, doctors, or food and nutrition employees, there is great demand for people to serve in the health care system. The nationwide and local demand for health care workers is a challenge.
“COVID-19 has caused many to rethink their ‘why’ for coming to work or even entering the health care industry,” said Paula Pittman, vice president of human resources for Methodist Health System. “This has never really been the case prior. We have seen some in our industry temporarily opt out of their workplace. Some have opted to stay home with their children. We believe COVID forced some people to adapt to a new lifestyle of less income or single income lifestyle. This has hurt the applicant pool and is certainly one of many factors contributing to the state’s record low unemployment of 2.2%.”
Frank Venuto, chief human capital officer for Nebraska Medicine explained, “The labor market for health care jobs continues to rise and rapidly … Considering that health care was already in a labor shortage, the demand for health care jobs continues to skyrocket.”
Attracting and retaining health care workers has been an utmost priority among local health care facilities.
CHI Health aims to hire 350 Certified Nursing Assistants by the end of 2021. For those without CNA certification, CHI offers
a program called CNA Advance, which will cover costs for individuals enrolled in the program to go to school. These individuals also shadow trained CNAs on the job.
“The pandemic has helped shine the light on the great job opportunities in health care,” said Jeanette Wojtalewicz, interim CEO. “We are always looking for nurses, therapists and pharmacists but there are also support roles like environmental services and food and nutrition that need to be filled.
“The nursing shortage was an issue long before COVID-19. To tackle this challenge head-on, CHI Health has had to get creative — investing time and resources to grow the next generation of health care workers — the real future of medicine.”
Medical organizations are getting more strategic in meeting the needs of potential workers.
“Health care systems are paying greater attention to the workforce’s well-being and are proactively addressing mental well-being for a tired, yet resilient workforce,” Venuto said.
Pittman noted that Methodist is taking the effort to fill positions seriously.
“We are deploying as many strategies as we can to reach those seeking employment, but also trying to truly showcase why Methodist is a place they should work,” she said. “We recently held a virtual career fair, which was very successful. Something we will look to do again. We are working to be very diverse in our recruiting efforts – knowing not everyone is on social media or online. We have to try and seek job hunters where they are.”
CHI has also taken an approach to reaching potential workers in a different way.
By partnering with the Latino Center of the Midlands, the organization is offering Latino students in college and high school an opportunity to explore careers in the medical field.
“So often people go into the medical field because they are exposed to medicine at home from a young age. We wanted to reach students who maybe haven’t had that experience or who are curious about what a career in health care would look like. Our goal is to open doors for everyone and give a new generation opportunities to explore professions that are both fulfilling and paramount to public health. CHI Health also recognizes the importance of diversity in our workforce and that our health care workers represent the community members they serve.”
A grant will pay for 24 students to become CNAs and 15 students will receive paid internships. Those interested in a career in health care will have additional education expenses covered and will be fast tracked into CHI Health’s CNA program.
While telehealth visits have helped people get care from where they are, the need for quality medical facilities continues to be a big necessity. Chanda Chacón, president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center noted that in August, the hospital opened the Hubbard Center for Children, a state-of-the-art facility that provides expanded services and programs for children.
“We will continue to look at how unique facilities help us ensure our teams can continue to offer care in innovative and agile ways,” she said. “We believe the need for acute intensive care space will continue, and that providing the space that supports that type of care will be an ongoing need. For routine and follow-up care, we see more of that happening remotely in the future.”
Venuto noted that new medical facilities will always be required in order to provide the best patient care possible.
“I do not see that health care will stop building new facilities,” he said. “The speed at which these new facilities will be planned, designed, and constructed will be a function of access to capital, philanthropy, and profitability. Health care systems will continue to have to replace outdated buildings, invest in technologies to push patient care out of the building to adjust to labor trends, and provide the right care at the right time in the right place.”
When it comes to the future of health care, the pandemic taught us many things. One key takeaway is learning how to adapt to whatever comes our way.
“Whether in relation to COVID-19 and the curveballs it continues to throw us, or the rapid pace of health care innovation and technological advancement, we have to be agile and nimble in our response,” Chacón said. “We must be flexible and get creative
to rise to the unique challenges of this time. If you’re standing still, you’re falling behind; we have to push ahead and keep on our toes. The children and families we serve are counting on us to be ready and prepared, no matter what circumstances we face.”