Healthcare is not immune to shortages and other workforce challenges stemming from factors such as financial strain, burnout and employee departures. However, a bright spot recently emerged in a new analysis from Altarum

The analysis of monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data found that healthcare employment is 3.2 percent above where it was before the COVID-19 pandemic began in February 2020 and now is above the 2.6 percent increase in non-healthcare employment over the same period. Hospital employment specifically is 2.1 percent above its pre-pandemic level, and ambulatory care setting employment is 7.8 percent higher. At the same time, employment in nursing and residential care is 5.7 percent lower than its pre-pandemic level.

Skilled specialist positions such as physicians, advanced practice providers and nurses are still short. But the data raises the question: What jobs are driving healthcare growth? 

Perhaps recent coverage and interviews by Becker’s shed some light on the issue. 

For example, we reported that Renton, Wash.-based Providence experienced a record year for hiring, filling 33,000 positions so far this year, about 19,000 of which were filled by external candidates. This represents a 15 percent increase in total fills and a 23 percent increase in external hires compared with 2022. Providence has also seen close to a 20 percent increase in retention. 

“These factors, working together, have led to some of our lowest vacancy rates, though some units and clinics remain understaffed,” spokesperson Melissa Tizon told Becker’s. “We’re aiming to continue improving, so we can decrease caregiver burnout and ensure every unit and clinic has the capacity to serve our communities as fully as possible.”

The 33,000 positions filled are largely registered nurses and other nursing roles, such as certified nurse assistants, according to Ms. Tizon. The other jobs included in this figure are other patient-facing roles, such as medical assistant, environmental services technician, patient services specialist, food service attendant, emergency tech, respiratory care practitioner, security officer, and phlebotomist.  

In a prepared statement shared with Becker’s, Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser said it has hired more than 50,000 front-line employees in the last two years, and included in this year’s new hires are more than 9,800 people hired into jobs represented by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. Kaiser said both parties agreed in April to a goal of hiring 10,000 new people for coalition-represented jobs by the end of this year. Kaiser expects to reach this goal by the end of October, if not sooner.

A spokesperson told Becker’s the most commonly filled roles include medical/clinical assistant, aid/assistant clerk, licensed vocational nurse-licensed practical nurse, housekeeping and service representative.

Another area of hiring worth noting is in the IT realm. Large health systems — including Atlanta-based Emory Healthcare and Houston-based Memorial Hermann — have switched their EHRs from Oracle Cerner to Epic, potentially affecting IT jobs. Pittsburgh-based UPMC announced in September that it will be transferring 6 million patient records from nine EHRs to Epic Systems. This task will involve 600 information technology technicians and as many as 1,200 physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other clinicians, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sept. 5. 

Monica Wharton, executive vice president and COO of Memphis, Tenn.-based Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, also identified data analytics as a growth opportunity.

“Data analytics plays a big role in what we’re trying to do in healthcare as we use our data to inform our decisions more,” she told Becker’s. “That is key not only from a quality perspective but also operationally within the health system. 

“Right now, everybody from a financial perspective is ensuring that they take a look at their operations to see, ‘How can we be more efficient in our operations?’ Because it’s about the right care at the right time at the right cost for our patients. And so, definitely, anything in data analytics is also a growth opportunity I would say in healthcare right now.”

While the jobs numbers are improving overall, some departments within hospitals may still be feeling the strain from staffing shortages. 

Brenda Simpson, DNP, RN, division senior vice president and chief nursing officer, facilities, at Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health, told Becker’s she has noticed accomplishments when it comes to retention, specifically related to clinician roles. But she acknowledged that vacancy remains a challenge.

“I know we are below our region in terms of vacancy rates. So we’re very pleased, and we really believe listening to our clinicians and acting on their voice is what’s going to retain,” Dr. Simpson said during an interview about summits that allow front-line clinicians to consistently weigh in on staffing plans. 

“But we still see vacancies. I know that we’re specifically struggling with imaging technologist and imaging roles as well as surgical tech roles. And I don’t think we’re alone in that,” she said.

Moving forward, clinical and nonclinical staffing shortages are likely to persist, Fitch projects. But  hospitals and health systems at the same time continue to eye growth opportunities and hire a variety of roles.


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