Healthcare Perspectives: Drug Screening Post Pandemic
Healthcare has faced massive workforce challenges in the last few years, including maintaining a strong drug screening program for applicants.
The last few years have been turbulent across hiring organizations, to say the least. Healthcare, in particular, has been an industry that has faced massive workforce challenges. COVID-19 triggered a huge need for healthcare workers, and over the course of the last couple of years, the shortages continue. Healthcare organizations are still finding it difficult to quickly hire the workforce they need. Changes to local and state drug policies, as well as continuing staff shortages, have prompted healthcare employers to reassess their drug screening programs for their workforce to enable faster hiring.
However, adaptations to drug-screening programs in healthcare have more challenges than many other industries. Frontline healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners, face higher than average risks of addiction, and bear a huge responsibility to their patients. This puts healthcare employers in a tricky situation of needing to hire fast, yet also mitigating their hiring risks. Here, we will look at the unique predicament that healthcare employers are in, and ways to help mitigate the risks they face.
Staffing Shortages in Healthcare
Since early in the pandemic, hospitals, care facilities, and other healthcare organizations have suffered staffing issues. Nearly 1 in 5 healthcare workers have quit during the COVID-19 pandemic, while another 12% have been laid off. Among those that have kept their employment during the pandemic, 31% have considered leaving. Additionally, sadly, COVID-19 has taken the lives of anywhere between 80,000 and 180,000 healthcare workers worldwide. It is therefore no surprise that burnout among those working in healthcare is incredibly prevalent – as many as 60-70% of healthcare workers report symptoms of exhaustion, depression, and PTSD.
These distressing factors lead to an even more upsetting outcome – a rapidly shrinking workforce in healthcare, and a desperate need to fill positions as COVID-19 and other viruses continue to fill facilities with patients. Doctors, nurses, assistants, and other frontline workers are leaving the industry, and there are not enough applicants to fill these positions
Healthcare organizations are also having a tough time finding talent to fill these positions. Hiring healthcare workers can take a great deal of time, often more so than in other industries. Healthcare employees are responsible for patient care and require a higher level of screening services to confirm that they are qualified and can be trusted with patients. Most healthcare employers require candidate screening which includes identity checks, criminal background checks, professional licensing checks, sex offender registry checks, and drug testing. This is for all healthcare workers, from administrators and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to doctors and nurses.
Employers looking to hire quickly may be tempted to reduce the background screening process to get the candidates onboarded faster, and where we are seeing this the most is with drug testing. With new legislation across the U.S. regarding medical and recreational marijuana, and the extreme need to hire quickly, this could be seen as a good option. However, we see that healthcare workers, especially those that care for patients, encounter more issues with illicit drug use than in other industries.
Healthcare Providers: An At-Risk Workforce
Unfortunately, we can see that healthcare workers suffer from some of the highest rates of addiction in the workforce. Healthcare employees face several unique factors in the workplace that put them at risk for addiction and drug abuse. Job-related stresses, understaffing, and unique healthcare circumstances, such as exposure to COVID-19, combined with access to prescription drugs, contribute to this issue of a higher-risk workforce.
Sadly, this has been happening for some time. As far back as the 1860s, medical literature has referred to the issue of addiction among medical staff. In the decades following, prescription drug use and addiction among healthcare providers has continued to climb, especially among doctors and nurses. Data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that an average of 103,000 healthcare professionals were abusing or depending on illicit drugs. One study found that the prevalence of addiction among nurses was as high as 32%.
Filling the Gaps in Healthcare Organizations
Back to the problem at hand – healthcare organizations need to hire to fill positions due to staffing shortages. We know that healthcare workers often require a more thorough background screening than workers in many other industries due to the nature of their jobs. Employers may be tempted to cut back where they can, to get candidates onboarded faster, and eliminating drug screening might be considered. Conversely, we see that many care providers are an at-risk population for illicit drug use and addiction, and a strong drug-free program is needed.
In the next part of this blog series, we will explore different options for speeding up the background screening process for healthcare candidates while also maintaining a drug testing program. In the meantime, you can read our free eBook on Building a Drug Screening Program. Learn more about our Healthcare Background Check Services on HireRight.com.
Release Date: January 11, 2023
Since joining HireRight in 2001, Mr. Hill has held positions in Product Management, Project Management, Sales Operations, and Account Management. He was most recently promoted to Managing Director, Healthcare & Life Sciences within the HireRight Healthcare team. Mr. Hill’s focus has always been on identifying solutions that meet the complex needs of those using HireRight services. He uses his years of experience in both Product and Account Management to partner with customers to help design programs that work for their specific business. Prior to leading the Healthcare and Life Sciences team, Mr. Hill worked directly with HireRight’s largest and most complex Global Accounts in both the Healthcare and Transportation industries. He is now using those years of direct experience to work with the Healthcare Vertical to help implement programs and solutions that best fit our customer’s needs. Mr. Hill holds a Bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University.