Health systems are prioritizing hiring and benefits in the midst of a nationwide talent shortage, Aon’s 2022 report on hospital benefits, released Tuesday, showed.
Healthcare employers rated “competitive benefits to attract and retain talent” as their top concern, with “burnout/workforce resiliency” as a close second. The shifting attention to burnout is notable, with the report noting that every year “competitive benefits” typically competes with “improving health outcomes” — which slid down to fifth place — as the top employer priority.
Hospitals have increased hiring as turnover continues apace, with front-line positions most affected; in fact, 83% of respondents said they’d accelerated hiring for such roles in the past 12 months, compared to the 51% that said they accelerated hiring for nonclinical roles.
Tuition reimbursement programs topped the list of benefits health systems said they offered, with nearly all (94%) providing such programs and most of the remaining respondents considering it. Flexible work options came in at a distant second, with 78% of respondents offering them.
Health systems are also offering or considering a wide array of caregiving benefits. For parents and prospective parents, 44% provided an adoption benefit and roughly one-third offered expanded parental leave, on-site daycare, backup child care, or expanded fertility coverage. In addition, 54% offered pet insurance and 23% provided backup eldercare.
Survey results show that healthcare workers’ mental health is also increasingly top of mind. Eighty-four percent of respondents ranked “access to mental health services/providers” as a top concern, and nearly half modified or introduced new employee assistance programs in the past 12 months. More than half of respondents offered resilience or stress management programs or mindfulness resources.
Nurses were the most sought-after talent in 2022, Aon found, with nurse staffing firms ranking second as talent competitors. Sixty-eight percent of respondents boosted pay and starting salaries for nurses and another 26% are considering doing so. Hospitals are focusing on nurses’ heavy workload, with 41% having addressed it already and 48% considering it.
The study reinforces other data showing the pandemic and its downstream effects have created enormous stress for healthcare workers. A recent study showed violence in emergency rooms is up, with doctors reporting threats on their lives. Nurses and physicians both reported increased emotional exhaustion in the second year of the pandemic compared with the first. Physician burnout was higher as well.
While some of the stressors and skills may be different, the healthcare talent shortage is similar to that currently being experienced by other front-line industries like leisure, food service and retail — all of which have likewise increased pay and benefits to attract talent. The education system is also exploring innovative ways to tackle its own talent shortage.