Home Health care provider Westmoreland health care providers and employees battle pandemic staffing shortages

Westmoreland health care providers and employees battle pandemic staffing shortages


The local healthcare industry had its challenges before a pandemic swept the world two years ago.

As the summer of 2022 approaches, HR directors and department heads are finding it even harder to find the people who can deliver basic services.

This is especially difficult for small facilities such as the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, where it is increasingly difficult to entice enough people to work and to cover staff vacations. The Greensburg-based congregation offers a variety of education, health care, and social service programs.

“How do you explain to your residents that you are only going to shower once a week instead of twice?” said Kathy Carulli, director of health care services for the Sisters of Charity nursing department. “We’re not like McDonald’s or Burger King.”

The organization tried to emphasize retention by boosting staff morale, positive reinforcement and “little bonuses,” said Carulli of North Huntingdon.

“Recruitment has been difficult since covid. There was a shortage of nurses before that, but when covid hit people were leaving the nursing profession in general, and we just don’t know where everyone went.

According to Becky Bostick, assistant director of dietetics for the Sisters of Charity, employees are entitled to a week’s vacation.

“We don’t have staff to cover vacations,” Bostick said of Greensburg. “It gets a bit hectic on some days, but we managed it.”

Excela Health, Westmoreland County’s largest employer, is facing similar issues as jobs have outnumbered people, so those looking now have more choice than ever, according to Heidi Henckel, head of talent acquisition at Excela.

“You can go up and down (Route) 30, and everybody’s hiring,” Henckel said. “The competition has definitely widened for us because it seems like a lot of organizations are hiring young people.”

According to Laurie English, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, Excela is currently hiring about 90 to 100 people per month, but staffing has remained “very fluid.”

“Obviously, we’re no different from other employers…when it comes to coping with labor market pressures,” said English. “We may hire 50 people but have 40 furloughs in the same amount of time due to retirement, furloughs, outside job opportunities and other catalysts.”

No shows

Sister Mary McCauley, housekeeping and laundry manager at Sisters of Charity, said sometimes people say they will come and not show up for work.

Carulli said she believes the “vast” number of opportunities and types of jobs available to people affect their engagement, especially young people.

“Unfortunately that means for us…a lack of work ethic because they think, ‘Well, if I don’t like my job here, I can just quit here and go tomorrow,’” said Caruli.

In the past, Carulli said, parents pushed their kids more to stick to commitments, especially jobs.

“The work ethic just isn’t what it used to be,” Carulli said. “The world is their oyster right now – they can find jobs anywhere.”

A 2021 study by Mercer examining the evolution of healthcare labor markets over the next five to 10 years found that the rate of retirement of primary care physicians will increase over the next five years. .

“Currently, about 12 percent of family, pediatric, obstetrics, and gynecology physicians are 65 years of age or older and are considered ‘retirement eligible,’” the study says. “By 2026, this number will increase to 21%, and more than 32,000 doctors will reach retirement age. »

Other job gaps are created when registered nurses leave for agency work and internal employees move to vacant positions within Excel, English said.

“Every sector of the economy is feeling the negative effects of the current labor market dynamics,” said English. “As far as our pay scales are concerned, we strive to be competitive in the market.”

According to the Mercer study, by 2026, it is estimated that nearly 23,000 primary care physicians will leave the profession permanently, leaving a “vacuum of demand for primary care providers.”

The demand for nurses will also increase by at least 5% over the next five years, according to the study, and during this period “more than 900,000 nurses will leave the profession permanently”.

“In addition to retirements, employers will need to hire more than 1.1 million nurses by 2026,” the study said. “If current trends continue, 29 states will not be able to meet the demand for nursing talent.”

Pennsylvania is expected to experience the largest nursing shortages in the United States during this period, according to the study.

Katelyn Printz, Excela’s human resources director, said she believes all companies experience staff shortages and can cause competition in the hiring process.

“I would say that historically I think what drove the market was people’s pure interest (in) what they wanted to do from an employment perspective…and I think now the market has changed a bit as the price of jobs is driving the interest in certain markets now,” Printz said.

The change has encouraged companies to heed recent calls to increase starting salaries and provide more benefits to stay in the market for new hires, Printz said.

“Unfortunately, I think all of the local businesses in Westmoreland County, we kind of compete with each other price-wise,” Printz said. “It’s a struggle for everyone, and I think it’s going to continue to be a struggle.”

Megan Swift is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Megan at 724-850-2810, mswift@triblive.com or via Twitter .