The four executives interviewed expressed broad concern for the entire health care community, which includes recruiters. Right now, the generosity and concern of "We're all in this together" resonates among everyone in this industry. Executives say their teams of recruiters are in an "all-hands-on-deck mode" and working "crazy hours" to meet the increased demands.
The Direct Impact of COVID-19 on Recruiting
"Our recruitment team will continue to source, virtually interview, and navigate our candidates to find their perfect match, with an awareness that there may be some delays in our process to allow for a collective focus on getting patients the care they need," says Rachelle Daugherty, CEO of Provider Solutions & Development or PS&D in Renton, Washington.
At Jackson Physician Search in Alpharetta, Georgia, President Tony Stajduhar is all in for the greater good. "We're in a cool position to be a part of something greater in health care right now, to be able to do so many things to help so many people in different ways," he says. "We've always been a company that puts others first, and we are living those values. It's refreshing."
"Clearly, it's been a very quick change in terms of how our clients and providers are operating," says Mark Law, chief sales officer for CHG Healthcare in Midvale, Utah. "All parties involved, from direct clients, to health care providers and staffing companies, have had to be really agile, nimble, and able to adjust."
The virus's demands exacerbate what was already a fact in the United States, says Travis Singleton, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Merritt Hawkins, based in Dallas, Texas. "We already knew we didn't have enough health care talent in the United States. We want to be sure our clients, and the system, are protected in the best ways, without being opportunistic."
Each Situation Merits Individual Response
Law says some clinicians have been very interested in raising their hand, asking "How can I help?" "We're trying to facilitate that, to think of a lot of ways a staffing agency can help get them to a place where they can have an impact," he says.
"On the flipside, some [clinicians] are anxious about stepping into something new," he says.
"They might be anxious about traveling or they're concerned about exposure—especially if they're in a high-risk category. It's been interesting, on the [clinician] side, to see the full gamut of reactions."
He says the company "has just tried to be responsive to each person's situation. If they want to jump in, we want to help, or if they want to hunker down, we try to respect that. We tell them to stay in touch, and we're ready to help them jump back in when it's time."
Not surprisingly, temporary staffing is desperately needed, and the areas of ED, ICU, pulmonary, and critical care are at the top, Stajduhar says. "We're helping people stay strategic to get through this, especially as pertains to our particular specialties."
"We're definitely seeing specialty shifts are where the demand is, and geography plays a role, too," says Law. "It will get worse before it gets better, and it will be in waves."
There's also a tremendous need for nurses, says Singleton. "This is really an hour-by-hour conversation about increased demand. It started week-by-week, then day-by-day. The difference is really how you manage your workforce, thinking 'Is this going to be a permanent influx of talent or just temporary?' That answer is different for different clients and always changing."
Virtual Technology Fills the Void
At PS&D, an early decision was made to change site visits requiring in-person interviews to use of virtual platforms, says Daugherty. The move has helped allay fears around spreading or contracting the disease, she says.
"That said, it is very hard for people not familiar with a community to make a decision based on a video interview alone, so we expect some to delay decision-making to a time when they can also see the community before committing," she says. "This may cause delays in time to fill, as well as to start dates."
The task requires companies to "come up with clever ways to be engaged," Stajduhar says. Jackson Physician Search is also employing virtual technology to get the job done, because the job has to get done.
"Some 50,000 doctors are going to relocate this year—6 percent of physicians move every year in this country—and now that's going to be compacted into fewer months," he says.
Merritt Hawkins' parent company, AMN Healthcare, started investing heavily in tech more than a decade ago, Singleton says. The parent owns b4health, shift management software for staffing, scheduling, and compliance, and it recently acquired Stratus Video, a leading provider of video remote language interpretation services for the health care industry.
"Never in a million years did we want or anticipate testing that technology in this way," he says. "Now health care facilities are being forced to do in a month what otherwise would have taken years. Still, some clients don't want to do everything virtually, but I think it's upon us to get them ready for that new reality."
Some progressive health system clients are doing virtual tours of the hospital and service line "walking in the shoes of the [clinician] and showing how things operate," Singleton says. "Whether it's job description, facility description, or clinician fit, we can do that all virtually; even down to salary, benefits, and structure."
Second Wave May Impact Staffing Again
Recruiters know that now is now, but that post-pandemic—whenever that is—the need for staffing "as it was" will continue, albeit with a different approach informed by what is transpiring.
"We also still have clients opening up new searches while all of this is going on, and business is moving ahead," says Stajduhar. "We can't give up on future plans or lose sight of them."
"We're looking at immediate bucket, and our health care system is doing what it should be doing—trying to meet challenge and demand," says Singleton. "That doesn't mean other strategic initiatives in hospitals go away, or that other patients won't ever come back."
"Provider Solutions & Development will be ready to 'hit GO,' when a sense of the new normalcy arrives," Daugherty says. "This experience will make our health system and the industry stronger in the long run."
As to how things might be different, Daugherty projects an uptick in infectious disease, primary care, and urgent care staffing needs. "I also foresee independent physicians looking to employment models as a safer option," she says. "When this happens, we will be there to welcome them into our communities."
The forthcoming period around "post-pandemic" may also include a second wave, health experts agree. One may be those patients who've been putting things off, like elective surgeries—and not just cosmetic. And the definition of "elective" is open to interpretation across the industry.
"If someone isn't going to die from it in the next couple of months, that's elective," says Singleton. "The baby boomer who's putting off care: What care are they putting off and what is that going to do, since many have chronic and complex conditions."
There's also the prediction that the virus could cycle, perhaps returning in the fall, just as the flu does. "The same health systems are going to have to meet that challenge, knowing that so many staff are exhausted and are suffering from burnout," he says.
While many professions languish during the pandemic, the need for health care professionals has never been greater—as is the need for recruiters to engage with them.
Article Originally Published on ACOG Career Connection