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Hiring Healthcare Professionals in a Pandemic

By Michael Klazema on 5/7/2020

A pandemic poses unique challenges for hiring across all industries. In the first six weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, stay-at-home orders and consumer fears led to a massive shuttering of the economy and caused more than 30 million people to file unemployment claims with the government. While most businesses aren’t hiring, some are—particularly the healthcare organizations in hard-hit outbreak epicenters.

Hiring healthcare professionals during a pandemic poses unique challenges, from attracting candidates to a high-risk field to fast-tracking the hiring process without sacrificing key steps, including conducting healthcare background checks.

One of the biggest hiring challenges for healthcare systems during a pandemic is contending with uncertainty. During COVID-19, the distribution of confirmed cases and deaths has skewed heavily toward urban areas. This map shows how major cities—particularly the radius around New York City along with Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Seattle, and Los Angeles—have suffered the hardest hits from COVID-19. Because the distribution of the viral outbreak has varied by location, healthcare systems are in unique situations depending on their geography.

During COVID-19, hospitals in epicenter areas have been overrun with patients and have had to hire temp workers to fill in for doctors and nurses who were quarantined after exposure to the virus. Elsewhere, hundreds of hospitals have had to lay off staff—particularly those that usually perform elective procedures, which have largely been put on hold. At the same time, hospitals must be ready to face a second outbreak if one comes, which makes the decision to furlough staff a difficult one.

Another big challenge is the amount of risk involved with working in healthcare during a pandemic. For doctors, nurses, EMTs, and other frontline healthcare staff, going to work every day during a pandemic means fighting to save lives, but it also means risking infection.

By mid-April, CDC data showed that approximately 9,300 U.S. healthcare workers had contracted COVID-19 (and the number is reportedly likely to be significantly higher); more than two-dozen have died. Healthcare workers also risk exposing their families to deadly viruses. Finally, there have been reports of frontline healthcare workers experiencing PTSD and other mental health ramifications from their time spent treating COVID patients (and watching many of them die). These issues can make it difficult for hospitals to attract candidates if they must hire in the middle of a pandemic.

The final major hurdle for healthcare organizations seeking to fill positions mid-pandemic is the need to fast-track the process. A hospital onboarding a new employee during a deadly outbreak is doing so out of necessity, which means a need to hire quickly, train quickly, and get to work quickly. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed waiving certification or recertification requirements for medical students about to graduate or retired healthcare workers thinking about returning to work.

Are healthcare background checks still critical? Healthcare workers require schooling, certification, and experience, and vetting those details of a person’s background is doubly important during a pandemic. Hospitals are asking professionals to work in an extremely high-stress environment: they need to make sure that those workers are qualified to handle it. Looking for criminal history, drug thefts from previous hospitals, suspended licenses, and other black marks is essential to protect patients and employees from potentially dangerous hires.

At backgroundchecks.com, we are proud to offer rigorous hospital and healthcare background checksContact us today if your healthcare system needs help devising a solution that is thorough but timely.


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