Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers, and particularly nurses, were already struggling in their professions. According to a survey of nurses conducted prior to the pandemic, nearly seven in 10 (67 percent) said they teeter toward burnout at least once a month.
There are many factors associated with this. For one thing, aging baby boomers have increased the overall demand for care. At the same time, baby boomers who have worked as nurses for the last forty years are now retiring at record rates, leaving more open positions behind than can be filled by new nursing school graduates. According to an article published in 2018 in the American Journal of Medical Quality, the country is forecasted to have a shortage of more than half a million registered nurses by 2030. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 2.4 million new healthcare jobs between 2016 and 2026.
On top of it all, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the skills shortage. Patients entering hospitals in record numbers have maxed out the available talent and, with those on the frontlines being exposed to the virus themselves and requiring time away from work to quarantine, hospitals are operating with limited staff.
Skills Shortage Within Healthcare Organizations
As a result, many healthcare organizations are beginning to look within their own walls to fill their skills gaps. Rather than looking for the perfect job candidate, they are looking at the current workforce for individuals who are trainable and are investing in education benefits that they can tailor to their specific talent needs. By giving employees access to education programs, academic coaching, and financial assistance, healthcare organizations are upskilling and reskilling their current employee base – a group of individuals that are already knowledgeable, engaged, and an organizational fit.
The good news is that nurses are on board. According to the Work Institute, career development is the top reason healthcare employees stay at a company, and in our own survey, 65 percent of surveyed nurses said they would stay with their employer for five years or more if their next degree or certification was paid for.
We partner with a large number of healthcare organizations to assess talent needs and create an education benefits program that is tailored to those needs. Many of these organizations recognize the great challenge involved with pursuing education while working full-time in a demanding field like healthcare, particularly for employees who also have a family at home, financial constraints, or other concerns. These healthcare organizations aim to make their programs accessible to all employees and go out of their way to address all of the challenges that might stand in the way.
Healthcare Organizations Offering Educational Benefits
Orlando Health, for example, is an organization that delivers on its commitment to nursing education through a generous tuition assistance program that supports employees continued education. In 2020 alone, the Magnet-recognized health system supported 619 nurses on their journeys to degrees. The organization also offers a student loan repayment program which has improved the financial wellness of nearly 600 nurses to date. As a result, they have seen more than a 10 percent increase in employee retention amongst those participating in its education benefits program.
Another example is Yale New Haven Health, which offers tuition assistance opportunities to employees across its five hospitals. To remove the financial barriers that prevent many working adults from going back to school, the organization launched a program where they pay the schools upfront, on behalf of the employee. The program has proven successful among employees, with a 10 percent utilization rate, more than double the national average, alongside a 93 percent retention rate for education benefits program participants.
Nurses may have one of healthcare’s toughest jobs, but they are a uniquely passionate talent pool and will be in demand for years to come. These nurses stepped up when the pandemic hit for the good of their patients and community, through the long hours and the exhaustion, despite their worries about their own health or their family’s health. Healthcare organizations must think creatively about how to inspire more caring professionals to pursue this career path and provide them with the skills and education to realize their dreams. This will contribute to what we need as a society, and ultimately result in better patient care and patient outcomes.
Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions partners with the country’s leading healthcare organizations to provide education programs like student loan repayment and tuition assistance that help workers advance their careers. EdAssist Solutions has identified the top employers in the healthcare sector who are offering the most comprehensive education benefits, with a focus on making those benefits accessible and affordable for the entirety of their workforce, including Atrium Health, Kennedy Krieger, NewYork-Presbyterian, Orlando Health, and Yale New Haven Health.