In a few years, the health care industry will experience an explosive increase in the need for temporary workers driven by changes in population, demographics, economics and policy.
Below we’ll highlight three main trends that will drive the predicted increase in temporary health care workers. It is recommended that all organizations review these trends and consider how this increase in contingent workers might affect their current worker screening programs to mitigate the inherent risk.
1. Increased demand for health care providers
Experts predict the demand for skilled health care providers will increase due to the aging baby boomer demographic. According to the Pew Research Center, for the next 19 years more than 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65 every single day. Patients 65 and over tend to have more complex or chronic conditions and greater health care needs than younger patients. The aging baby boomer demographic will also begin transitioning to acute levels of care, which require highly trained in-home or residential care community nurses.
The new health care legislation also opens up health insurance coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured individuals. This puts an even greater stress on the need for more medical providers. Moreover, some states, such as Texas, are experiencing bursts of regional population growth that make it difficult for hospitals and health care organizations to staff appropriately. As a result of these demographic, policy, and population changes, organizations may need to rely heavily on temporary staff to bridge the gap and continue providing quality medical care.
2. Projected dearth of skilled medical providers
Experts warn that there will be a shortage of skilled doctors and nurses to handle increased demand in the coming years. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. could face a shortage of about 150,000 doctors in the next 15 years. Also worrying is the number of physicians who specialize in geriatrics. The Institute of Medicine recently reported that there is currently one geriatrics-certified physician for every 2,500 patients. This ratio will only worsen as baby boomers age and require geriatric care.
In terms of nursing, a study by The Council on Physician and Nurse Supply has determined that 30,000 additional nurses need to be graduated annually to meet future health care needs. That would require a 30 percent increase over the current number of annual nursing graduates. Additionally, according to a 2007 report by the American Journal of Nursing, by 2012 the largest segment of the nursing workforce will be in their 50s. As this large segment transitions to retirement, the number of skilled nurses will shrink even more. With a shortage of skilled medical providers at hand, hiring of contract workers is expected to grow.
3. Organizations prefer temporary workers post-recession
After a recession, organizations across all industries tend to increase temporary hiring. During the current economic recovery it is likely that health care organizations will follow this trend. Health care employers may prefer to hire temporary workers because they require less initial cost, risk and overhead than permanent employees. Many health care organizations will also hire temporary workers as a way to see if an individual is a good fit before committing to permanent status.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the surge in temporary workers is even more pronounced as a result of the most recent recession. The share of temporary workers in new job growth jumped from 7 percent of all new jobs created after the recession ending in 2004, to 26 percent of jobs created after the current recession. Data from the 2011 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends, published by Staff Care also shows a marked increase in the use of temporary workers. The survey found that health care facilities monthly use of temporary physicians jumped from nine percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2010.
How an increase in temporary hiring effects health care organizations
Historically, health care organizations have not screened contract workers as thoroughly as full-time employees. In its annual benchmark survey, HireRight found that health care organizations were screening 89 percent of newly hired employees but only 48 percent of newly hired contract workers. Furthermore, once hired, these organizations were only re-screening 13 percent of existing contract employees.
Without thoroughly screening newly hired and existing contingent workers, organizations risk using individuals with a history of misconduct or criminal activity. This jeopardizes the health care organization’s compliance, legal standing, patient and employee safety, and brand reputation.
Industry trends show that health care organizations will increasingly rely on temporary workers in the coming years. HireRight recommends that health care organizations stay ahead of the curve and consider improving their screening programs for contingent workers now.
Having thorough screening solutions in place for temporary workers can help a health care organization to adapt to industry changes and better mitigate the compliance, safety, legal and reputation risks associated with unscreened workers.
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