Tennessee hospital leaders rally to address hiring crisis

Blake FarmerWPLN News

Author Steve Cadigan, who helped found LinkedIn, spoke with hospital associations across the country to rethink the workplace in the wake of staff exodus during COVID-19.

Tennessee hospital leaders gathered in Franklin over the weekend, largely to focus on their shared hiring crisis. Staffing shortages have not eased even as the pandemic eases, and many hospital leaders are starting to get used to high turnover.

Hospitals – like many institutions – have generally rewarded longevity. So the exodus during the COVID pandemic has shaken many systems.

In Fayetteville, near the Alabama border, Mary Beth Seals runs the Lincoln Health System and says she’s now ready to hire people even if they have a string of one-year jobs on their resume. And she acknowledges during orientation that she wants them to make the most of their time there, even if it’s limited.

“Even though they work in a small rural hospital, we have a lot of young applicants,” she says. “I can tell them, ‘You may be starting out as a technician, but you aspire to something bigger.’ We want to help them get there.”

At their annual conference, the Tennessee Hospital Association flew in human resources guru Steve Cadigan, the author of “WorkQuake” who is credited with the massive expansion of LinkedIn. He has trained hospital executives across the country and says it may be time to rethink the requirements of almost every job within a hospital or else the exodus is likely to continue. He notes that almost all perks in a hospital are meant to reward tenure, while most employees are looking for places where they can grow and have flexibility.

But he also says hospitals can’t blame nurses or other staff for accepting lucrative travel positions, as many have. But these people can become ambassadors for the hospital if they are treated well when they leave. And maybe it will bring them back one day.

“I think we’re at a point where maybe we should be focusing on something more important than just holding people back,” Cadigan says. “Maybe it’s about maintaining relationships. It might be bigger. Maybe it’s in the longer term to our advantage.