If you’re like many health care recruiters right now, you’ve found yourself toe-to-toe with a challenging reality in the world of talent acquisition: fewer job responses.
The shrinking number of physicians and advanced practice providers applying for jobs is not just an anomaly occurring among certain openings or specialties, either. The entire landscape of health care employment has been shifting for years and has only been sped up by recent events.
A trend of dwindling job applicants isn’t the good news recruiters hope for - there’s no sugar coating it. However, it is a shared experience, and acknowledging it alongside helpful data can reveal catalysts and potentially allow recruiters to pivot toward solutions - or at least a more prepared and engaged mindset.
So why aren’t physicians applying to jobs?
COVID-19, stress and burnout
Even before the start of the pandemic in 2019, the health care workforce had a deficit of 20,000 physicians that were needed to meet current needs. By 2034, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects this deficit to reach 124,000 physicians.
Now, in the wake of COVID-19, even more physicians and APPs have been thinking about taking a step back. A CNBC report revealed that 60% of nurses and 20% of physicians said they considered leaving their jobs due to pandemic stress. Alarmingly, nearly 20% have gone through with resignation, according to a survey by the Morning Consult.
The problems this imbalance causes are major: Receiving care becomes more expensive for patients, accessibility to care becomes more limited and the quality of the care is more likely to be compromised. These factors, coupled with health care providers working beyond their means to meet a growing demand, create the perfect breeding ground for burnout symptoms - and the cycle continues.
Aside from physician resignations due to burnout, stress and COVID-19 fatigue, a natural exodus from the health care field is also on the horizon for many.
A growing population of aging health care workers - and, therefore, retired health care workers - will also lend itself to projected shortages. According to the American Medical Association, 2 out of every 5 physicians will be at the average retirement age of 65 or older within the next decade, and CNBC reports that one million nurses are planning to retire by 2030.
Aging patient populations
The AMA says that although the health care workforce is climbing (up 19.8% from 2010) and medical school applications jumped 18% in 2021, it still isn’t enough to keep up with an aging patient population that’s steadily growing.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the country’s population to inflate to 363 million by 2034, and two-thirds of the growth is estimated to be individuals 65 and older who will require more care as they age.
Fortunately, International Medical Graduates are starting to make positive waves in these high-need areas, accounting for half of doctors working in geriatrics, the AMA reports, and a sizable number in endocrinology, oncology, and cardiology.
When aiming to recruit specialists that are in high demand or interested in treating underserved areas, recruiters may want to prioritize IMG prospects - especially after observing their growing presence in the field. In 2022, ECFMG.org noted that 7,670 IMGs obtained first-year residency positions in accredited U.S. GME programs, an increase of 2.2% from the previous year and 4% from 2020.
Less competition for jobs
As a result of the shortage, vacant positions are stacking up for health systems, and the growing number of career opportunities has become disproportionate to the limited number of eligible candidates. Jobseekers know this and realize the ball is often in their court during the job search. In turn, they’ve learned they can submit fewer applications and still expect to receive a response.
At this point in the recruitment game, simply posting a job and waiting for results isn’t enough. That’s why it begins to fall on you as the recruiter to stand out from your own competition - and you can do that by supplementing current strategies with other more direct - and personal - methods of reaching candidates.
What it means for recruiters
When we acknowledge the current and projected shortage of physicians across the industry and the multiple factors at play, a drop in eager job applicants adds up. Knowing it’s a trend impacting health care altogether doesn’t make it any easier to fill openings, but it does offer some insights for you as a recruiter.
First, it can shed some light on why job applications are coming in more slowly and why positions are harder to fill across the board.
Second, it can create opportunities to be more proactive than reactive in your recruitment strategy as you await job responses. Of course, it’s a good idea to continue posting your health system’s open jobs, but you might also seek creative ways to forge more meaningful encounters, such as meeting candidates at virtual or in-person events or sending invites to link on social media.
Third, and finally, taking this information into account can help you know when to give yourself grace in a recruitment landscape that’s facing troubling trends. Talk to other recruiters at your health system, or within your network, to find out what’s working for them. At the very least, you’re bound to find a sense of community as you learn some trials aren’t ones you’re facing alone.