By 2030, all baby boomers – more than 78 million – will be older than 65. That means that many of today’s highly-skilled, frontline healthcare workers will be transitioning to retirement and moving from practitioner to patient. This aging population will increase the need for healthcare services, creating more strain on providers who already face difficulty in staffing.
Allied health professionals make up 60% of the healthcare workforce. They play a critical role in most practices, ensuring that the flow of patients operates efficiently, and that each patient receives personalized, quality care. There’s no question that practice managers face many challenges in hiring, especially for allied health professions in high-demand, such as clinical medical assistants and medical administrative assistants. In contrast, there are fewer schools today training individuals to enter these careers.
For practices that haven’t yet made allied health hiring a strategic priority, it may be time to plan for the future. In a recent study commissioned by National Healthcareer Association (NHA) and conducted by an independent research firm, employers shared their opinions on allied health professions, giving insight into developing employees to become high-performing contributors to the success of a practice.
What the research tells us
In the research, employers reported that while many newly certified allied health workers are prepared and eager to get to work, they need further development of important skills. More than 65% of employers reported that newly certified allied health workers entering the workforce are prepared to perform their job duties, but they still need to develop some specific skills.
- 52% of employers said certified allied health employees need to further develop clinical skills
- 50% said patient communication needs enhancement, noting that active listening was a critical communication skill needing improvement
- 48% reported critical thinking needs to be improved
- 48% stated allied health workers need to develop professionalism / soft skills
- 42% reported time management as a key area for improvement
The research suggests that more than half of employers of allied health professionals rely on continuing education requirements to develop skills. Nearly one-third of employers also employ mentorship and coaching to help employees improve performance.
While these methods for skill development will continue to play an important role in healthcare, practices can take creative approaches to develop allied health workers to become excellent, long-term employees. The true challenge is attracting ambitious frontline healthcare talent and retaining them by creating a culture that rewards continued growth.
Taking action now to impact future staffing challenges
Private practices can address staffing challenges in a number of ways. The most difficult part is making staffing a strategic priority and taking action. To get started, here are four ideas for private practices to consider:
- Connect with local allied health schools to find candidates. Learn how these schools prepare students to enter the workforce and communicate the specific needs of your practice. Connect with the career services department and share learning gaps you have been able to identify in their candidates. This can help improve their program and build your candidate pipeline with the specific skills most important to your practice.
- Provide local students with hands-on experience. Create an externship, internship and/or apprenticeship program. Allow them to job shadow and practice occupational skills as well as the soft skills they need to be successful in the workforce.
- Attract ambitious talent by developing a career laddering program. You can attract ambitious allied health professionals who want opportunity to grow when you have a formal career development program. Covering the cost for professional certification exams, exam preparation materials, continuing education and recertification can set you apart from other practices and help you to retain top talent.
- Foster a culture within your workplace that appeals to younger generations. Millennials and Generation Z make up the majority of incoming allied health professionals, and their expectations and desires for their workplace are different than prior generations. While there are unique differences in how members of these two generations grew up, both generations appreciate authenticity more than prior generations. Foster a values-first culture that encourages transparency.
While you may not be able to implement every strategy to cater to a new workforce, you can create a workplace that is inviting for the newest frontline healthcare workers. Taking steps today can help you continue to find success in the future when it comes to hiring the best and brightest allied health talent.