At Cleveland hospitals: Entry-level postions open, but more doctors and registered nurses needed
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The hiring challenge for area hospitals is two-fold: finding enough people to fill entry-level health care positions, while at the same time looking for physicians, advance practice nurses, physicians assistants and medical coders – positions that require more education and promise much higher salaries.
In Greater Cleveland, more than 53,000 jobs – 54.2 percent of the health care workforce – don’t require undergraduate degrees, according to a report released Thursday by the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution. Those jobs are classified as pre-baccalaureate or pre-BA occupations.
While the Brookings report focused on the low wages prevalent in many of those pre-BA jobs, those salaries are probably higher than similar positions outside of the health care industry, said Cheryl VanHorn, director of talent acquisition at MetroHealth System.
“What we focus on is working on growing employees into where we do have a shortage,” she said “We’re looking to see how we can develop employees so they can move into some of those harder-to-fill positions.”
Roughly 39 percent of University Hospitals’ 17,201 employees hold associate level positions – those that require a high school diploma or associate’s degree.
The need is great for medical assistants (median salary in Cleveland metro area for pre-BA workers: $ 26,000) and hospital-based nursing care support employees – the people who work in physician practice offices – but the bigger issue for UH moving forward will be filling positions that require a bachelor’s degree or above, said Kim Shelnick, UH’s vice president of recruitment and staffing.
“Most of our incumbent positions – where we struggle to recruit – are going to be in that category,” she said. UH’s main needs from a workforce planning perspective, she said, include registered nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree, physicians, physical therapists and pharmacists.
Because the shortage of physicians is expected to continue, there will be a need for nurses who can go back to school and become advance practice nurse practitioners, Shelnick said. The current nursing shortage, however, is being exacerbated in large part by the dearth of educators on hand to provide that training, experts say.
Not all nursing jobs are created equal, or even desired in equal amounts.
Hospitals are seeing less of a demand for licensed practical nurses, or LPNs (median salary in Cleveland metro area: $ 40,000), than nursing assistants (which requires a high school diploma and additional certification) and nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree. While there are some LPNs on staff at UH, no new positions are being added, Shelnick said.
At any given time, the Cleveland Clinic is on the look-out for people to fill jobs for pharmacy technicians, patient service representatives and patient-care nursing assistants.
“We hired 800 PCNA’s last year, and 900 the year before that,” said Scott Doak, executive director of talent acquisition.
There are currently 100 PCNA positions open at the Clinic, Doak said. While there is some turnover, the position can lead to opportunities for someone to eventually become an RN, health unit coordinator or a clinical technician – positions with more responsibility and larger salaries, he said.
More than 60 percent of the country’s RNs have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the Brookings report.
LPNs, a pre-BA job, work under the direction of RNs and physicians and are more prevalent in physician offices, family health centers, nursing homes and assisted living and extended care facilities.
“We’re really heavily focused on bachelor’s degree RNs,” said Doak of the Clinic. “But there are avenues to help people to get into those roles. We do a lot to help them achieve the education required.”
At MetoHealth System, 55 percent of positions filled over the past 12 months have been pre-BA jobs.
“They’re not physicians, they’re not PhDs or professional staff, but we still see a pretty strong need in that area,” said Kyle Hodges, MetroHealth’s manager of diversity recruitment.
“Health care is changing,” added MetroHealth’s VanHorn. “We’re seeing more outpatient care and the length of stay in the hospital is shorter.” The need for what Van Horn calls “patient-facing positions” – many of which have both a clinical and clerical component – will continue to grow, she said.
Those types of positions involve lots of patient interaction, making skills like good customer service a prerequisite, said UH’s Shelnick, who also is a member Cuyahoga County’s Workforce Investment Board, the advisory body for the county’s Department of Workforce Development.
“We’re having a lot of conversations with the colleges, constantly talking about the gap with the ‘soft skills’,” she said.
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