An Inside Look at Healthcare Hiring in the U.S. Right Now
May 19, 2020
It was early March when Shane Jackson first felt the impact of COVID-19. His healthcare staffing agency, Jackson Healthcare, was getting a wave of cancelled assignments. Healthcare facilities didn’t need people like surgeons and anesthesiologists because elective surgeries were off, per state mandates.
Then another wave hit — urgent requests for critical care workers. Facilities expecting patient surges couldn’t ramp up fast enough. "We’ve had two types of clients,” says Jackson. “Those begging for critical care nurses and intensivists, and then everybody else. And ‘the everybody else’ has no patients."
Hiring in healthcare has been a tale of two extremes this year. On the one hand, there’s been great demand for workers who can treat COVID-19 patients. On the other, non-critical care has virtually stopped. To uncover what’s happening, we analyzed LinkedIn data and interviewed some of the largest healthcare staffing agencies in the U.S.
Overall, the healthcare industry is taking a hit
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.4 million healthcare jobs were lost in the U.S. in April, a big jump from March’s total loss of 43,000 jobs. The most job losses were in dentist offices (503,000), physician offices (243,000), and other practitioner offices (205,000), as many closed or scaled back due to stay-at-home directives.
Job losses in hospitals (135,000) and nursing and residential care facilities (113,000) followed. With hospitals losing a billion dollars a day, layoffs have been a way to survive. According to CHG Healthcare, another staffing agency, the financial strain on hospitals is making it difficult to predict if they can sustain staffing contracts. “At the beginning of the crisis,” wrote CHG Healthcare’s Mark Law in an email, “Hospitals were cutting temporary staff 1-2 months out. Now we’re seeing some reduce their staffing plans 6-12 months out.”
To make further sense of these numbers, remember doctors and nurses are just one part of healthcare. There’s a whole ecosystem of talent that supports the care of patients, from the engineer who integrates the computer systems to the cashier in the hospital gift shop. Even when a few facilities close, the impact on jobs can be huge.
LinkedIn data shows a similar trend. The healthcare hiring rate is down 19.4% year-over-year, with April having the largest month-over-month dip (-18.7%) in the history of the series. It’s worth noting that despite its large drop, healthcare fared better than most industries. Hiring across all industries is down 30% y/y and 24% m/m.
The pause in non-essential care is likely driving down job openings
In terms of specific roles, LinkedIn data show large declines in preventative care titles. People are postponing teeth cleanings, so there’s less need for dental assistants. Same goes for hearing tests and audiologists. Non-critical positions such as physical therapists and sonographers are down too.
The 97% drop in travel nurses is surprising, but one hospital we spoke with said that they’d take away shifts from contract nurses in order to keep their own staff nurses working. Ambulatory care nurses work in outpatient settings where patient volume is way down, so their 27% decline makes sense.
“Prior to this pandemic, I don’t think plastic surgeons could have ever thought they would be filing for unemployment,” wrote Mark Law. “We’ve found healthcare systems putting all hiring on hold, ERs where there are almost no non-COVID patients, and others that have asked physicians to take vacation or be furloughed because there is no work.”
Meanwhile, the demand for frontline clinicians is up
COVID-19 patients who need to be hospitalized are very sick and require specialized care. Thus certain roles like intensive care nurses and hospitalists (physicians who work in hospitals) have more than doubled, while other nursing roles have seen significant growth too.
The staffing agencies we spoke with have seen these demand increases first-hand. Respiratory therapists are normally a small part of CHG Healthcare’s annual placements, but COVID-19 increased their job demand 5x in a one-month period. Similarly, at staffing agency Aya Healthcare, critical care registered nurses and respiratory therapists have been most in-demand recently, in addition to medical surgical nurses, emergency department staff, and other professionals like pharmacists.
Demand is focused in COVID-19 hot spots, and met by moving talent from less-affected areas
When we look at nurses specifically, demand in the New York area is highest. This makes sense considering its large population and high rate of COVID-19 patients. Detroit, Atlanta, Seattle, and Washington D.C. currently are or have been hot zones, which perhaps explains their positions on the list despite having relatively smaller populations.
Looking at changes since January, some different regions pop up. The biggest jumps in nursing demand have been in Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky.
Jackson Healthcare has been helping Georgia meet its high demand by deploying talent from areas with few COVID-19 patients. They adopted a similar strategy previously when Seattle, New York, and Michigan flared up.
Geographic redeployment has made sense for two reasons. First, the extensive training and licensing required for many clinical roles makes it hard to cross-train. It’d be rare to train a general surgeon for temporary work in emergency medicine, for example. Also, because states have been impacted in different ways and at different times, there hasn’t been a lack of supply nationally — redeploying talent from less affected areas is enough.
Faster hiring and a greater sense of purpose are bright spots for healthcare recruiters
Since the pandemic, pressure has been on recruiters to move faster. “If you asked me two months ago, ‘Can you deploy 100 people to a hospital in a week?’” says Jackson. “I would have said, ‘No, that's not how our business works.’" And yet, his team pulled that off, plus more. Some agencies have become near-24/7 operations — sourcing, screening and deploying talent at record speed — all while working remotely. Responses from healthcare workers have been nothing short of inspiring. Most have an “I’ll go anywhere” attitude, willing to risk their own health to serve on the front lines.
For recruiters, many are doing the most meaningful work of their lives. Getting 150 doctors to New York to care for patients, for example, has real impact. For recruiters who’ve been less busy, agencies estimate non-COVID work may pick up as elective and non-acute specialty care resumes. But as Mark Law reminded us, “We’re in an unprecedented time in the history of healthcare. No one really knows what is coming, how things will change or what to plan for.”
So as we hope for the best, we’d like to thank the millions of healthcare workers on the front lines, all the support staff behind the scenes, and the healthcare recruiters navigating the ever-changing state of hiring.
Co-authored by Andie Cockerill
The LinkedIn Hiring Rate (LHR) is the percentage of LinkedIn members who added a new employer to their profile in the same month the new job began, divided by the total number of LinkedIn members in that country. By only analyzing the timeliest data, we can make month-to-month comparisons and account for any potential lags in members updating their profiles. This number is indexed to the average month in 2015-2016; for example, an index of 1.05 indicates a hiring rate that is 5% higher than the average month in 2015-2016.Using the U.S. Census Bureau's method to calculate seasonal adjustment, we remove predictable seasonal hiring variations to allow for easier comparison between months and analysis of emerging hiring trends.
We analyzed the global healthcare job openings that were posted in April 2020 on LinkedIn. Looking at the top healthcare job titles, we can identify the most notable percent changes since the beginning of the year, January 01, 2020.
Nurses are defined as any member currently with a title in Advanced Practice Nurse, Allergy Nurse, Ambulatory Care Nurse, Associate Chief Nurse, Burn Nurse, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Nurse, Cardiovascular Clinical Nurse Specialist, Cardiovascular Intensive Care Nurse, Cardiovascular Surgical Nurse, Case Management Nurse, Charge Nurse, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Clinical Research Nurse, Community Health Nurse, Correctional Nurse, Developmental Disabilities Nurse, Diabetes Nurse, Dialysis Nurse, District Nurse, Emergency Room Nurse, Endoscopy Nurse, Fertility Nurse, Flight Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Hematology Nurse, Hemodialysis Nurse, Home Health Nurse, Hospice and Palliative Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Infection Control Nurse, Informatics Nurse, Infusion Nurse, Intensive Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, Intensive Care Nurse, Labor and Delivery Nurse, Lead Nurse, Learning Disabilities Nurse, Long-Term Care Nurse, Maternity Nurse, Medical Surgical Nurse, Military Nurse, Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse, Neonatal Nurse, Nephrology Nurse, Neuroscience Nurse, Nurse, Nurse Coordinator, Nurse Navigator, Obstetrics and Gynecology Nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Oncology Nurse, Orthopedic Nurse, Palliative Care Nurse, Pediatric Nurse, Postpartum Nurse, Private Duty Nurse, PRN Clinical Nurse Specialist, PRN Nurse, Progressive Care Nurse, Psychiatric Nurse, Public Health Nurse, Radiology Nurse, Registered Nurse, Registered Nurse First Assistant, Rehabilitation Nurse, Respiratory Nurse, School Nurse, Senior Nurse, Surgical Intensive Care Nurse, Surgical Nurse, Telephonic Nurse, Transplant Nurse, Trauma Intensive Care Nurse, Travel Nurse, Utilization Review Nurse, & Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse.
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