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Hospitals boost hiring efforts, sweeten employee benefits, survey finds

Hospitals boost hiring efforts, sweeten employee benefits, survey finds
September 2, 2021 Rachel Tirabassi

Hailey Mensik for Healthcare Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Nearly 40% of hospitals surveyed from April through June by employment services firm Aon said they’re ramping up hiring to meet increasing demand for medical services following last year’s widespread delays and cancellation of nonemergency care due to COVID-19, according to a report out Monday.
  • Another 36% of hospitals plan for normal hiring and 24% plan to be cautious, possibly hiring only for key roles, Aon said.
  • Health system employers said their top concerns are employee burnout, workforce resilience and work-life balance as well as diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, the report found.

Dive Insight:

The findings from Aon’s annual benefits survey of hospitals sharply contrast last year’s, when the curtailing of nonemergency procedures spurred systems to institute cost-cutting measures.

This time last year, 54% of hospitals said they put furloughs in place and 45% said they laid off workers, according to that report. And 15% suspended retirement plan contributions while 10% announced voluntary separation programs.

Now, hospitals are struggling to find and keep the staff they need, especially with new COVID-19 variants on the rise and patients returning for care they delayed throughout the pandemic that is making this wave different from the last. The survey was completed largely before the full onslaught of the more infectious delta variant took hold in July and August.

From April through June, Aon surveyed hospital employers and compiled results of participating benefit plans for more than 2.4 million health system employees representing more than 1,150 hospitals.

They found that health benefit expenses per hospital employee are expected to rise 2.7%, from $14,446 per employee in 2020 to $15,133 in 2021.

Those surveyed also expressed interest in luring employees with new benefits. Offering tuition reimbursement programs was most frequently cited, followed by providing flexible work options. Other benefits include cash-out vacation policies and on-site childcare.

At the same time, 77% of hospitals plan to pay 76% or more of their workers’ healthcare costs, and 23% already offer a no-cost health plan option to some segment of their workforce, the report found.

Nurses are in especially high demand now as new variants exacerbate burnout among healthcare workers and delayed care ramps back up.

“Attracting and retaining talent remains a top priority and health systems have prioritized benefits as a mechanism to reward their workforce,” Sheena Singh, senior vice president of Aon’s national healthcare industry practice, said in the report.

“This is a trend that will continue with a shortage of qualified health professionals and rising demand for health care services, as these organizations seek to build a resilient workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Singh said.