Talk of the gig economy tends to focus on things like ride sharing and food delivery. But healthcare has its own gig economy, driven by physicians, nurses, therapists, and other workers looking for a better way. More importantly, the gig economy is thriving. The two questions most important to recruiters are why, and how they can utilize the gig economy to maintain adequate staffing.

We have seen the emerging healthcare gig economy reflected in our various healthcare databases. The quality of our data sets is largely due to a vetting process that involves healthcare systems, pharmaceutical companies, and other market players. From that data we can see a clear migration away from old employment models to the new gig model.

By now you might be wondering just what is driving healthcare workers to the gig model. The data tells the story. Likewise, it also offers a solution to healthcare employers desperate to recruit and retain top talent.

A Critical Situation

Research from OliverWyman clearly shows the gig transition in healthcare. According to their data sets, 20% of America’s hospitals faced critical staffing shortages in January 2022. Meanwhile, some 60% of all nursing homes were forced to limit admissions in late 2021 due to insufficient staffing. The data in this regard is crystal clear: healthcare workers are leaving traditional employment en masse.

As for why, the data tells that story, too. Here is what the OliverWyman research reveals:

  • Money alone is not enough. Healthcare workers want compensation they believe is fair, compensation commensurate to their workload and responsibilities.
  • Healthcare workers expect employers to care about them as people. They expect to be cared for to the same degree they care about their patients.
  • Healthcare workers are extremely concerned with quality-of-life issues. They no longer want their employers making work-life balance decisions for them.
  • Healthcare workers are also concerned about their own physical and mental health, especially in light of being exposed to COVID and other potentially debilitating sicknesses.
  • Healthcare workers want more control over the trajectory and progress of their careers. They are no longer content to allow circumstances to dictate how their careers evolve.

The last point cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Whether you are talking about pay, work-life balance, or even a healthcare worker’s physical and mental health, everything boils down to a single consideration: who is in control. The gig economy offers the promise of taking that control away from the employer and putting it back in the hands of the employee.

A Response to COVID

Data further points to the COVID pandemic being largely responsible for driving healthcare’s emerging gig economy. Gig workers, like locum tenens nurses and doctors, have been around for decades. However, the mass exodus we are now seeing started when overtaxed and stressed healthcare workers were forced to sacrifice even more to take care of COVID patients.

Doctors, nurses, and therapists typically get into healthcare out of a sincere desire to help other people. Unfortunately, the old HR-based model of healthcare recruiting and retention has long been focused on the institution rather than the employee. And because the institution continually wants more, it is inevitable that healthcare workers will ultimately feel like they cannot give enough.

The data does not lie. Healthcare workers are moving to the gig model in ever-growing numbers. Until employers are willing to embrace the root causes of the migration, it is something that will continue. That may be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. Either way, the data provides both the explanation and the path to a solution.

by Chris Lee (President  iMedicalData, LLC)