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2021 Healthcare Staffing Industry Forecast

Female doctor holding a tablet. 2021 healthcare staffing trends.

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitalization of the hiring process. With increased emphasis on removing friction in regard to talent acquisition, streamlining the onboarding process to keep costs down, fill rates up, and the quality of staff consistent—this year technology and automation are even more important. 


Read, ‘Pandemic Staffing: How One Healthcare Organization Leveraged Technology to Meet the COVID-19 Staffing Surge.


Key Insights 

  • Travel nurse staffing skill segment reported median 32% year-over-year growth in November 2020. Per diem nursing was also up 10%. 
  • 59% of companies reported increased spend on talent acquisition technology in 2020. 
  • 62% of travel nurse staffing firms increased spending on sourcing automation, and 76% increased spending on candidate engagement technology.
  • Average recruiting difficulty increased from 3.26 to 3.40 in November 2020, while average sales difficulty increased from 2.88 to 2.90.

Statistics referenced are from the December 2020 Pulse survey conducted by Staffing Industry Analysts.


Increased Spend on Talent Acquisition Technology

Talent acquisition technology is all about streamlining processes, added convenience, and automating the mundane, time consuming and repetitive. The healthcare staffing industry is in the midst of a shift, with increased importance in reallocating resources and human capital to save time, money and improve operational efficiency. 

As of November 2020 travel nursing increased spending on talent acquisition technology, accounting for a 62% increase in sourcing automation, 76% increase in candidate processing technology and 48% increase in candidate verification and assessment technology. 

Per diem nursing also spent more on talent acquisition technology in 2020—22% increase in sourcing technology, 33% increase in candidate processing technology and a 33% increase in candidate verification and assessment technology. 


Convenient & Flexible Technology

The nature of healthcare staffing is always in flux. A surge in COVID-19 cases in specific geographic areas, for instance, will generate demand for locums, nurses and allied health professionals. Or a post-Covid shift in elective surgeries to the outpatient setting could drive demand for ambulatory surgery centers (ASC)s and perioperative staff.

With the needs of local communities constantly in flux and finite resources available, hospitals and healthcare organizations benefit greatly in selecting workforce solutions that are unique to them. Talent specialists desire a solution in which they can make one phone call to a dedicated account manager who then can take care of everything from agency outreach to provider onboarding. 

At any time of day, specialists desire to have a place they can go in one central system, submit needs, review CVs, and click a button to accept a provider and begin the process of credentialing, so he or she can get to the hospital as soon as possible.


Request Info: COVID-19 Surge Staffing Program


Data-Driven Decision Making

According to a report published by Ardent Partners, only 53% of high-performing organizations are able to convert contingent labor data into actionable intelligence. This is often one - of many - reasons why healthcare organizations have turned to MSPs with leading-edge technology. With quantitative data, leadership can make strategic business decisions and establish more realistic staffing benchmarks. 

By leveraging talent acquisition technology organizations can better match the unique workflow requirements of the many labor categories found working in healthcare systems and more conveniently manage all labor types in one web-based system. In addition, leadership aims to achieve transparency into spend and with talent acquisition technology this is possible—providing real-time dashboards and reports to give valuable business insights that would otherwise go overlooked. 


Read, ‘[Checklist] Are You Managing Your Contingent Labor Effectively?


Expedited Retirement & Change in Practice Settings

A 2020 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges projects that more than 40% of active physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade. To further complicate the current situation, a survey by Merritt Hawkins in collaboration with The Physicians Foundation found that 14% of physicians plan to change practice settings as a result of COVID-19, while 18% plan to retire or close their practices altogether. Even with the vaccine, some physicians who are close to retirement are opting to retire early, while others have chosen to pursue a non-clinical path that is more research or consulting driven.

The physician workforce isn’t the only occupation to face this reality, the impending retirement of nurse baby boomers has been looming for a while now—but COVID-19 has further cultivated a population imbalance in the nursing workforce, causing nurse leaders to retire early as well.

As a result. we will likely see a greater need for locums tenens, nurses and allied health professionals in 2021 and beyond. By planning for contingent labor, hospitals are better prepared for what lies ahead. Between requests for time off to avoid burnout and healthcare workers becoming ill or providing respite care to family members, contingent workers provide the flexibility for hospitals to give their permanent staff a break without disruptions to patient care and operational efficiency.


HWL COVID-19 Surge Staffing Program

HWL is offering healthcare delivery organizations a rapid response staffing program designed to meet the urgent staffing needs that may be driven by increased demand for locum tenens, nurses and allied health professionals and shortages of core staff due to the pandemic. We are uniquely positioned to act as an honest broker for our clients because of our vendor-neutral philosophy, access to real-time market intelligence and first-hand knowledge of agencies’ inner workings.

Allow us to demonstrate how we can help your organization turn real-time data and staffing strategies into actionable results. Contact us today, 833-495-4636 ext. 5 / sales@hwlmsp.com for more information or to schedule a demo.

Additional Resources


January 27, 2021/By Lauren Cabral
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Author: Lauren Cabral

Lauren N. Cabral joined HWL as the Senior Vice President of Business Development and Consulting Services in 2020 and now serves as the Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships. With over a 25-year record of achievement in driving transformational workforce management and talent acquisition optimization strategies to some of the most prestigious integrated delivery networks in the country, Lauren has demonstrated executive leadership in leading teams and large-scale engagements. She has served as the Vice President of Advisory Solutions, Business Development, and Client Services for some of the most respected healthcare workforce management firms in the nation.
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