The 5 Biggest Challenges of HR Departments in the Healthcare Industry

August 14, 2019
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Human resource (HR) departments typically have their hands full no matter what industry they’re in, but some industries face more challenges than others. In particular, HR departments in the healthcare industry have to deal with some unique and pressing issues that aren’t necessarily as big of a deal for other industries.

Learning how to navigate and proactively address these challenges can help you build a more stable and rewarding career in the industry and strengthen your department overall.

The Biggest Challenges for Healthcare HR

These are some of the most important challenges to understand:

1. Role diversity.

First, there are hundreds of different roles within the healthcare industry, and all of them are different. This is advantageous for anyone seeking a career in healthcare; no matter what your interests or reasons for getting involved in healthcare, there will probably be a route to a rewarding career. However, as an HR manager, you’ll be tasked with creating job descriptions, managing hiring, and understanding all the differences between those different roles.

2. High regulations.

Most healthcare positions can’t be obtained with just a high school diploma. Instead, there are intense and complex regulations dictating who can be hired for what. In HR, you’ll often be responsible for learning these things, including the degrees, certifications, and prior experiences necessary for each position.

3. Staff shortages.

The healthcare industry is facing a shortage of people across the board. There aren’t as many doctors or nurses as there are open positions; by 2022, it’s estimated that there will be more than 1.2 million vacancies for nurses alone. This puts extra pressure on HR departments to fill those positions as quickly as possible, especially when people leave.

4. High staff turnover.

To make matters even more complicated, the healthcare field is associated with a high turnover rate—and that turnover rate is gradually inching higher. There are several motivating factors for this, including the availability of jobs at other organizations. Of course, finding replacement staff is difficult, given the shortage of available candidates, the demands for each position, and the costs associated with hiring and training someone new. Most of this burden falls on the HR department, who may not be able to keep up with demand.

5. Employee burnout and morale.

Part of the turnover problem is rooted in low morale and employee burnout. Many roles in the healthcare industry—especially those that require more training and experience—tend to be highly stressful. People work long hours, deal with life-and-death situations, and have to think on their feet to deal with new situations on a regular basis. Accordingly, if employees face these conditions long enough, they can become unmotivated, and their performance may decline (or they may leave altogether). Preventing and addressing this low morale can be difficult for HR professionals, requiring alternative strategies and constant focus.

6. The importance of ongoing education.

Most healthcare roles have some need for ongoing training and education. The HR department is often responsible for coordinating at least some of these education and training opportunities. That means learning which requirements exist, staying up-to-date with the latest changes, and making sure all your staff members remain in compliance.

7. Payroll challenges.

You might also be responsible for navigating the complex terrain of pay rates in the healthcare industry. Healthcare employees like doctors, RNs, assistants, and lab technicians all have very different rates of pay, and those rates may significantly increase or decrease based on a multitude of factors, like how long the person’s been studying, how much experience they have, and so on. On top of that, medical professionals often have strong unions, which present some extra HR and payroll issues, like the need for highly accurate documentation and reporting.

Innovating New Systems

Most of these challenges don’t have a single, simple solution; instead, you’ll need to learn to work with them, and come up with multiple systems to alleviate their burden. While HR in healthcare is a demanding field, it’s also a highly rewarding one, and the more creatively you address these challenges, the more your department will stand to benefit.
The 5 Biggest Challenges of HR Departments in the Healthcare Industry
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