The local health industry had its challenges before the pandemic hit the world two years ago.
As the summer of 2022 approaches, HR directors and department managers find it even harder to find people who can provide basic services.
This is especially difficult for small facilities such as the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to lure enough people to work and cover staff vacations. The Greensburg-based congregation offers a variety of education, health and social services programs.
“How do you explain to your residents that you will only bathe once a week instead of twice a week?” Said Kati Caruli, director of health services in the Nurses of Charity’s nursing department. “We’re not like McDonald’s or Burger King.”
The organization is trying to emphasize detention by building staff morale, positive reinforcements and “small bonuses,” said North Huntingdon’s Caruli.
“Recruitment is rough after Covid. There was a shortage of nurses before, but when Covid hit, people left the nursing profession altogether, and we just don’t know where everyone went. ”
According to Becky Bostic, assistant diet manager for Sisters of Charity, employees are allowed one week off.
“We don’t have people to cover the holidays,” said Bostic of Greensburg. “Some days it gets a little hectic, but we managed to overcome it.”
Excela Health, the largest employer in Westmoreland County, is facing similar challenges as jobs have become more abundant than people, so jobseekers now have more choices than ever, according to Heidi Henkel, manager of Excel for talent acquisition.
“You can drive up and down (route) 30 and everyone rents,” Henkel said. “The competition has definitely expanded for us, because it seems that many organizations are hiring younger people.”
According to Lori English, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, Excel currently employs approximately 90 to 100 people a month, but staff remains “very volatile.”
“It is clear that we are no different from any other employer … when it comes to dealing with labor market pressures,” said English. “We can hire 50 people, but have 40 vacations in the same time frame due to retirement, vacations, job opportunities abroad and other catalysts.”
Sister Mary McCauley, Sister of Charity’s household and laundry manager, said that sometimes people say they will come and then not come to work.
Caruli said he believed that the “huge” number of job opportunities and types available to people affected their engagement, especially for younger people.
“Unfortunately for us, this means a lack of work ethic, because they think that ‘Well, if I don’t like my job here, I can just leave here and go there tomorrow,’ Caruli said.
In the past, Caruli said, there has been a greater push from parents for their children to stick to commitments, especially work.
“Work ethic is simply not what it used to be,” Caruli said. “The world is their oyster right now – they can find work anywhere.”
A 2021 Mercer study examining changing healthcare labor markets over the next five to 10 years found that the rate of retirement among primary care physicians will increase over the next five years.
“Currently, about 12% of family medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecologists are aged 65 or over and are considered ‘eligible for retirement,'” the study said. “By 2026, that number will rise to 21% with more than 32,000 doctors moving to retirement age.
Other employment gaps are created when registered nurses leave the agency and internal staff are transferred to open positions at Excel, English said.
“Every sector of the economy is negatively affected by the current dynamics of the labor market,” said English. “As far as our pay ranges are concerned, we strive to be competitive in the market.”
According to a study by Mercer, by 2026, it is estimated that nearly 23,000 primary care physicians will leave the profession permanently, leaving a “vacuum in the demand for primary care providers.”
Demand for nurses will also increase by at least 5% over the next five years, the study found, and during this period “more than 900,000 nurses will leave the profession permanently.”
“Along with retirement, employers will have to hire more than 1.1 million nurses by 2026,” the study said. “If current trends continue, 29 states will not be able to meet the demand for nursing talent.
Pennsylvania is projected to have the largest shortage of nurses in the United States during this time period, according to the study.
Caitlin Prince, Excel’s human resources director, said she believed all companies were understaffed and agreed that they could cause competition during the hiring process.
“Historically, I would say that what has driven the market is the pure interest of the people (c) what they want to do in terms of employment … and I think that now the market has shifted a bit, the cost of labor places are moving interest in certain markets now, “said Prince.
The change has encouraged businesses to keep up with the recent call for higher wages and more benefits to stay in the new hire market, Printz said.
“Unfortunately, I think all the local companies in Westmoreland County are competing with each other in terms of price,” said Princez. “It’s a struggle for everyone and I think it will continue to be a struggle.”