Covid-19 Drives Disparity in Healthcare Staffing Demand

Before this year’s pandemic, the term “talent shortage” was ubiquitous, applying to most occupations within healthcare staffing. However, with spikes in demand to treat Covid-19 patients, alongside reduced non-Covid care, we are seeing a temporary bifurcation in healthcare staffing that may be unprecedented.

In nurse staffing, Covid-19 created a surge in demand for nurses with ICU experience. At the same time, some experienced OR and ER nurses found themselves struggling to find work for the first time in their careers. This dynamic has been quite a change from the last few years, when the talent shortage applied to most experienced nurses. Currently, some nurses are adapting their skill set so they can take assignments in the ICU or other roles more in demand.

As healthcare continues to be one of the most unpredictable segments of staffing, SIA has lined up more than 50 experts in the industry to share the most current developments in the market. During the 2020 Healthcare Staffing Summit, SIA Director of Custom Research Tony Gregoire and President Barry Asin will offer an outlook of what to expect for healthcare staffing in 2021. 

The pandemic has also contributed to a substantial bifurcation in demand in allied health staffing, with respiratory therapists needed to treat Covid-19 patients, and other occupations coping with school closures and fewer elective or less critical procedures and appointments. In our most recent allied health staffing benchmarking survey, revenue from temporary staffing of respiratory therapists rose 79% (driven by a 43% increase in hours and 25% increase in the average bill rate) from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2020. On the other hand, revenue from temporary staffing of physical and occupational therapists declined by 29% and 41%, respectively, over that period. The bifurcation caused by the pandemic is also evidenced by how Covid-19 was both the most noted driver of staffing demand and the most noted constraint on demand across respondents to our survey.

Though most of the effects of the pandemic should be as temporary as the pandemic itself, it does raise the question of how many people will leave these jobs before the pandemic abates, creating shortages as demand for some of these roles returns. The skills demanded may be quite fluid for some time, and the flexibility staffing firms offer may be especially needed in terms of particular skills as well as overall volume levels.

For more information on developments in the healthcare industry and what to expect in 2021 and beyond, attend SIA’s annual Healthcare Staffing Summit, a state-of-the-art virtual conference on Oct. 27 and 28.

This post first appeared in the Healthcare Staffing Report.

Katherine Alvarez

Katherine Alvarez
Katherine Alvarez is an associate editor with Staffing Industry Analysts. she can be reached at kalvarez (at) staffingindustry (dot) com.

Katherine Alvarez

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