HR in the Healthcare Industry
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
What Is HR in the Healthcare Industry?
Human resources is the conscience and heartbeat that holds the healthcare industry together. They attract, hire and staff the best and brightest professionals, construct attractive compensation and benefits packages that increase retention, and resolve employee relations that affect teamwork and the employee experience. HR employees in the healthcare industry put on Superman capes every day to keep everyone sane in the crazy industry we know as healthcare.
Why Is HR in the Healthcare Industry Important?
The human resources department plays an important role in companies in every industry, but its role in healthcare is particularly critical. Because of the complexities faced by the healthcare industry, it’s vital to have a strong HR team in place to help navigate the various challenges.
Finding Talented Healthcare Professionals
HR is important in the healthcare industry to help balance the current volatility of the field with turnover, competition from the traveling nurse industry, and replacing aging and burned-out medical professions with ambitious new faces.
Advocating for Employees
HR is also an important conduit between stakeholders and employees as the advocate of the employee and advisor to leadership and the executive staff. They can guide on best practices to help ensure success and make an organization an employer of choice.
HR in the healthcare industry is important for governing policies and procedures and tracking compliance by ensuring medical employees are current with licenses. They can also make sure organizations are practicing with the guidelines set by CDC, OSHA, and FLSA.
The Role of HR in the Healthcare Industry
HR in healthcare extends far beyond the hiring, onboarding, payroll, and firing processes that are often top of mind when thinking about human resources. In healthcare, HR leaders and departments are forced to be more strategic, forward-thinking, and legally adept.
HR helps set standards with hiring practices and procedures to ensure the organization attracts the most qualified candidates and retains them with competitive compensation and benefits packages. HR also helps healthcare professionals balance the dual role of being great clinicians with educating their business minds. By providing training and guidance regarding employee engagement, talent management, development, and employee relations concerns, HR can help medical professionals succeed in both realms.
On top of all that, HR healthcare leaders must recognize that the group of humans who fall within their stewardship extends beyond the employees receiving a paycheck; it also encompasses patients who are receiving care.
To run a successful healthcare practice, human resources must be top of mind. We’ll dive into the role of human resources in healthcare and better understand what HR leaders must do to play an effective role in this industry.
Hiring and Onboarding
Like any HR job, the goal is to get the best humans you can find in positions where they can succeed. This begins with the hiring process.
Hiring is a key responsibility for any human resources department, and there is no exception to this in the healthcare industry. In fact, because healthcare workers are often very specialized it can make this job even more difficult.
When hiring for healthcare, the number of candidates is often limited, both by geography and by ability. Many healthcare workers need to either have specialized, advanced degrees, or they need to be trained and certified for various positions. Human resources leaders in healthcare must prepare for both of these challenges and understand how to screen for them in the hiring process.
The needs of your medical practice may change quickly and you’ll need to be prepared to act. For example, hiring a new doctor may also mean needing to hire a new nurse and a new physician’s assistant. Because some positions will require staffing in other areas, the human resources department must do a good job of forecasting future needs and keeping a list of “warm candidates” who they can call upon in a pinch.
Finally, onboarding new hires is just as important as finding top talent in the first place. Providing a structured onboarding process sets new hires up for success and increases the chances that they’ll stay at the company.
When you’re working at a healthcare facility, the difference between a poorly trained and well-trained employee can sometimes be the difference between life and death. While that might sound a touch dramatic, it’s also very true. Training new employees is a must for any company, but it’s absolutely essential in the healthcare business.
Developing a well-designed training program will often fall on the shoulders of the HR team. Human resources leaders need to devise onboarding plans so that new employees can learn their responsibilities, schedules, and expectations. New employees also need to become very familiar with their day-to-day tasks, learn vocabulary that may be unique to the company, and develop relationships with co-workers.
Another part of training new employees is making sure everyone has their proper licenses and certifications. It’ll be up to the HR team to make sure that those who need certifications have them, and that those licenses and certifications are renewed before they expire. Using software to help track all of these renewal dates and training requirements is a must.
Remember, training doesn’t stop when onboarding is completed. Training employees is a recurring task that will need to be continued throughout the employee lifecycle. One of the human resources’ primary roles in healthcare is to make sure that all employees receive the training, certifications, and licenses they need to do their job and remain legally compliant.
When it comes to human resources and healthcare, logistics are an integral part of the job. While healthcare may generally have a reputation for moving slow, there are definitely times when you’ll need to be ready to act fast.
First, you need to consider scheduling and job rotations. Depending on the facility or clinic you’re working at, this may be rather simple or very complex. Large healthcare facilities like hospitals may manage hundreds of different rotations for doctors, nurses, visiting physicians, and others. Making sure shifts and schedules are easily communicated, readily accessible, and flexible to changes is a must.
Next, you’ll need to have a system for managing the logistics of payroll. Again, depending on the facility and the pay structures in place, this can become complicated very quickly. Some healthcare workers (like therapists or surgeons) may only get paid when they perform work on a patient or with a client. Other workers are paid a salary and may have bonus incentives structured into their employment agreement. Establishing pay structures and then managing both fixed and variable pay for employees can be a challenge without the proper expertise. HR professionals in healthcare need to be prepared for such challenges.
Staying Up-to-Date on Relevant Trends
While keeping up with relevant trends may be a prerequisite for any HR role, there are some unique things to consider when running an HR department for a healthcare company.
When most HR professionals think about relevant trends, their minds might immediately focus on things like working from home, company culture, performance management, and other hot topics in the HR world. These are all important, and understanding their impact can provide great value to the company.
However, this discussion isn’t about these types of trends; rather, human resources professionals in healthcare need to think about local trends that are relevant to their healthcare practice.
For example, if your practice is in an area that is increasing (or decreasing) in population very quickly, then you might need to adjust your forecast for future staff positions. You’ll also want to be familiar with the size of the geographic area that is typically served by your facility and whether or not there is new competition in that area.
Additionally, keeping track of things like the average age of the population you serve, the frequent needs and treatments of that population, and the socioeconomic status of your potential customers will all factor into the decisions you make from an HR standpoint.
Fostering Diversity, Inclusion, and Equitable Treatment
A primary tenant of a good HR department is to ensure that the company is fair and equitable to employees. There is no room for discrimination of any kind, especially discrimination based on things like racial prejudice or gender.
A great way to ensure that employees are treated equitably is to have clear guidelines and directions around things like pay raises, career advancement, and leadership responsibilities. Being transparent and clear about these guidelines and sticking to them will reduce the chances that an employee is discriminated against (even unconsciously) because of their age, race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sexual preference.
Of course, you can do much more than simply ensuring that employees with the same experience are getting paid equivalent salaries. There is much more you can do to facilitate an inclusive workplace environment.
HR professionals working in healthcare should be proactive about creating an accepting, welcoming place to work and attend. This will not only be important for employees, but also for the patients or clients who visit your facility.
It’s a good idea to hold regular training on diversity, inclusion, harassment, and similar subjects. Take complaints about harassment or prejudice seriously and investigate them to the best of your abilities. Seek out diverse job candidates when looking for new hires. Create opportunities for colleagues to get to know one another and form relationships.
A workplace can only be great when everyone feels comfortable and accepted. The human resources department should share in the responsibility to see that this happens.
Helping Maintain Patient Satisfaction
It may come as a surprise to see this as a responsibility for the human resources department in healthcare. After all, isn’t patient satisfaction left up to the practitioners?
While the majority of the responsibility may fall on their shoulders, the HR professionals in healthcare should not shy away from being involved in making every patient visit a success.
So in practical terms, what can HR actually do to make a difference in this area?
First, HR can make sure schedules and shifts are properly coordinated so that practitioners are not late for appointments. If there’s one thing any patient hates, it’s being asked to wait for a long time when they have an appointment on the books. Getting scheduling and staffing problems ironed out so that patients are seen when they’re scheduled to be seen can lead to higher satisfaction scores.
Second, HR leaders can address issues of poor behavior that practitioners may occasionally express. If someone in your facility who regularly has face-to-face interaction with patients is acting out, using vulgar language, or treating patients disrespectfully, it’s up to the HR leader to stop such behavior.
Finally, part of the human resources role in healthcare is to ensure that everyone working in the facility has the tools and resources to do their job properly. Check in with the heads of various departments regularly to ensure that they not only have the staff needed to operate effectively, but that they have the software, hardware, and other tools to ensure patients have a great experience each time they walk in and out of your office.
Employee management is an inescapable part of HR’s job, and that doesn’t change when working in the healthcare industry.
Employee management takes on many different flavors of responsibility. First and foremost, employee management means properly and securely tracking and managing the employee data you gather from each of your hires. Much of this data is highly sensitive and must be treated with extreme care. You also need to have it available to access whenever a question arises or an audit is pending.
Employee management also encompasses the performance of the employees in your organization. A yearly performance review just doesn’t cut it in today’s world. Employees want to be met with regularly so that they have a chance to discuss the challenge they face as well as receive feedback from superiors. Having a program in place to regularly check in on employee performance will contribute to a healthy workplace culture and help employees feel heard.
Finally, employee management also means making decisions about organizational structure, staffing needs, and in unfortunate situations, conducting layoffs. HR leaders working in healthcare must stay on top of the needs of their organization so that it’s properly staffed and operating efficiently. When downturns happen, restructuring and reorganizing the facility is an unfortunate but critical responsibility that the human resources department needs to be involved in.
Discipline and Dispute Management
When people outside of the world of human resources think of HR, they often think first of disciplinary action. There is no shortage of jokes made about HR being code for “company police” or about how they ruin all the fun.
While HR is so much more than disciplinary action, it doesn’t change the fact that discipline and dispute management are an important part of the job. When things go awry, HR needs to be there.
Healthcare may have its unique set of challenges, but ultimately many of the disciplinary actions you’ll have to take are consistent with what you’ll find in other industries. Employees who are lazy, who regularly miss shifts, who do not perform their responsibilities, or who do not follow the rules and guidelines laid out in the company’s handbook need to be held accountable. Based on their offense and prior history of behavior, disciplinary action should be taken swiftly and appropriately.
Additionally, disputing employees may need a mediator if they cannot resolve the issues themselves. When it comes to unresolved disputes, HR leaders must not be afraid to step in and work with employees to find solutions.
Ensuring Compliance and Legality
Healthcare is among the most regulated industries in the world, and for good reason. There are rules and regulations in place to ensure that patients are treated fairly and that no harm is done. Of course, HR is another highly regulated industry with its own set of rules, guidelines, and restrictions in place. The intersection of these two industries is what regulatory dreams are made of.
The role of human resources in healthcare calls for compliance and legal savvy. HR leaders in this role cannot afford to be ignorant of the legal issues they most certainly will face. To ensure that they’re complying with every applicable law, human resources professionals in healthcare should seek expert guidance throughout their careers.
Challenges of HR in the Healthcare Industry
Just as in any industry, the healthcare industry faces its own challenges. Successful HR takes these challenges into account and looks for ways to overcome them. Below we’ll review some of the most common difficulties that HR comes across in the healthcare industry.
Challenge 1: Balancing Costs
A major challenge for HR in the healthcare industry is balancing organization and contract staffing costs with the rising salary requirements and lack of available candidates for certain jobs. The travel industry provides additional challenges, as a medical professional can sacrifice stability and benefits to contract with travel companies to make more money than working for an organization.
Challenge 2: Career Burnout
Another challenge for HR in the healthcare field is combating career burnout among staff. The rigorous support required to ensure industry success and dealing with the concerns from healthcare staff about the sustainability of the profession takes its toll on everyone involved.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the healthcare industry saw a steep drop in employment. As lockdowns spread across the country, and people began avoiding healthcare facilities for fear of catching the virus, many healthcare professionals who weren’t treating COVID patients either lost their jobs or had to work fewer hours. Staff shortages made it more likely for those who remained in the workforce to experience stress, trauma, and burnout, especially when case numbers were high.
In addition to the immediate results of COVID-19, the healthcare industry is also seeing more lasting results: in particular, the Great Resignation, which Forbes describes as “the mass exodus of unsatisfied workers.” With work-life balance front and center in the public spotlight, thousands of healthcare workers are leaving their jobs in search of more flexibility.
A report by ASPE states that “while [COVID-19] case numbers and hospitalization rates are declining as of March 1, 2022 and the most acute workforce challenges may be easing for the time being, many of the impacts the pandemic has had on the workforce are cumulative and may not resolve quickly.”
In the foreseeable future, HR will need to continue being aware of the long- and short-term challenges brought about by the pandemic. As people contemplate leaving the healthcare industry in search of something better, HR can play a pivotal role in motivating them to stay with flexibility, good benefits, and a healthy work environment.
Challenge 3: Resistance From Healthcare Professionals
HR in the healthcare field is also challenged by the resistance of medical professionals to understanding HR best practices and procedures. They are often resistant to the HR personnel who try to train them. While the medical professional’s sole focus is the care of the patient, the business side of patient satisfaction, such as following proper procedures to avoid legal liabilities, is just as important to organizational effectiveness.
Best Practices for HR in the Healthcare Industry
This next section will cover some best practices that every HR professional should be aware of when it comes to the healthcare field.
Tip 1: Have Stakeholder Trust & Support
For an HR department or HR professional to accomplish anything in the healthcare industry, they must have stakeholder trust and support. HR pros, build up trust between key stakeholders and yourself by following through on promises and following up on conversations. This will allow you to ensure success at all levels of the organization, from the executive staff to employees.
Tip 2: Learn Your Client Base
It can be easy for an HR department to become its own little world, solely looking inward at the business. But for HR to succeed in the healthcare field, it’s important that you get to know your client base. Take some time to get to know the people the organization is serving. This will deepen your understanding of the industry as a whole.
Tip 3: Practice and Promote a Good Work-Life Balance
Keep an eye on employees to make sure they’re not suffering from burnout. When they are, take action to help solve the problem. A big part of this might be preventing the issue in the first place by offering generous benefits, as well as resources for stress management.
It’s also important that HR models a good work-life balance. After all, you can’t help others if you’re barely functioning yourself. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals aren’t the only ones who get burned out. Those in human resources are just as liable to feel stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed. HR professionals should focus on having a good work-life balance. Company leaders are responsible for providing incentives, appreciation, and resources to keep the HR team motivated and excited about their work.
Tip 4: Integrate Automation
While many HR processes require a human touch, there are others that can be performed more quickly and efficiently with technology. There are many HR software platforms that automate processes that once had to be done by hand. By automating these processes, you’ll free up more time for HR to interact with employees and patients, solve unexpected problems that come up, and focus on improving the work environment for everybody.
Tip 5: Offer Killer Benefits
There are many factors that make it difficult to hire and retain medical professionals. They’ve often signed non-compete agreements with current employers that require a long notice period before they can take a new job. Other times, the areas where medical professionals are most needed aren’t as attractive to job seekers. Then there’s the issue of burnout—dealing with sickness, injury, and death all day takes a toll. One way to help mitigate these challenges is to offer great employee benefits.
We all know the most common benefits that are probably first on an employee’s list of must-haves: health insurance, dental and vision insurance, life insurance, and a 401(k) or other retirement saving plan. But beyond that, there are many additional benefits that employers can offer that make all the difference in their employees’ day-to-day lives.
Here’s a list of just a few that are especially relevant to busy healthcare professionals:
- Financial planning resources. With years of student loans to pay off, those working in the healthcare industry might appreciate help with money matters.
- Paid childcare. Offering childcare services is a great way to take some of the burden off of working parents.
- Mental health programs. This benefits both employer and employee. When people have the right resources to take care of their mental health, they’re better at everything they do—including their job.
- Gym membership. Make sure that medical professional’s aren’t taking care of other people’s health at the expense of their own. A gym membership can make it easier to exercise regularly, something that employees might struggle with if they have a demanding schedule.
- Commuter benefits. Consider helping employees get to work by paying for them to use public transportation.
Tip 6: Educate Yourself on Healthcare Compliance and Laws
In addition to the laws and regulations that all HR professionals should know, HR workers in the healthcare field need to be aware of industry-specific guidelines. This can get tricky, as each state has unique laws and licensing requirements for healthcare professionals. If you’re working for a healthcare organization with employees in multiple states, you’ll want to stay up-to-date on each state’s regulations. In addition, here are a few federal laws that impact the healthcare industry:
- The Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects privacy by setting confidentiality standards for patient health information.
- The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) reinforces HIPAA by creating specific regulations for electronic health records and incentivizing healthcare organizations to switch from paper to electronic record keeping.
- The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) gives patients access to care in emergency situations, even if they can’t pay for it.
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was signed into law in 2012, made insurance more affordable for low-income people, expanded the range of Medicaid eligibility, and established other standards designed to protect patients.
When to Hire an HR Professional for Your Business
Because different laws come into play as companies increase in size, it’s a good idea to have an in-house HR professional by the time your business is approaching 50 employees. But having a dedicated HR person long before that can’t hurt anything. People with human resources expertise are invaluable assets because they have the skills and knowledge necessary to combat the unique difficulties that healthcare companies face. With the help of an HR pro, you’ll be better prepared to hire talented employees, help them develop, and keep them around longer.
How Eddy Can Help Simplify Your HR Processes
Good HR is so much more than administrative tasks. However, administrative work often takes up valuable time—time that could be spent focusing on big-picture issues.
Eddy is an all-in-one HR software that saves small businesses time and money by automating key HR functions. With Eddy, you can hire qualified employees, manage performance, keep track of important documents, run payroll, and more.
Questions You’ve Asked Us About HR in the Medical Industry
Chad is a proactive and seasoned Human Resources professional with over 20 years progressive experience in all areas of human resources, talent acquisition, and project management. Chad is a retired Army Soldier now living life after working in Healthcare. Chad is a sports fanatic and loves to travel, listen to music and live life with no regrets.