After a year dominated by COVID-19, Healthcare IT is rebounding.

Throughout 2020, the majority of US hospital systems were stopped in their tracks. Spending on capital projects was paused indefinitely, and leaders were forced to significantly reduce contingent labor usage and slow hiring of full-time employees in order to focus any remaining budgets on direct patient care of COVID-19.

The larger healthcare talent pool resulting from these deep cuts and layoffs, coupled with access to a new national, all-remote workforce created a near ideal staffing market for hospitals. With net new positions at a premium, hiring managers were able to use whatever funds available to secure the best talent and be very deliberate through their process.

In 2020, hospitals and health systems – like most organizations – looked to do more with less, and for only the most critical of functions. This meant hiring timelines became much longer as funding and approvals for any technical spending took many more steps and reached the highest levels of the organization. With a slower and more deliberate approach in filling roles in effect plus a larger healthcare IT talent pool available, there was little incentive for employers to speed up the process because they simply did not have to compete as hard in these market conditions. And, frankly, IT workers within the space desperately needed jobs.

In just the first 5 months of 2021, there has been a complete reversal in the healthcare IT staffing market. As the economy reopens, hospitals and health systems across the US are rapidly rebounding and resuming business as usual. However, in many ways, 2021 is not panning out to be a return to ’usual,’ but rather, an acceleration or catch-up. Many systems are accelerating projects that were put on hold or delayed, and the demand for deeply experienced HIT/EHR experts has strongly returned to pre-pandemic levels and is on track to outpace levels not seen since 2018-2019.  This also means that the same talent pool that was once willing to take any open role available and wait out the longer timelines, is back in the driver seat and healthcare organizations need to be ready to adapt.

What Employers Need to Know

So, how can you prepare to compete? Simply put, pick up the pace and sweeten the deal. Schedule candidate interviews and make decisions – and quickly. As so many hospital systems are clamoring for the same technical talent, it will be key to keep candidates engaged throughout the process, communicate actively, and secure funding ahead of time in order to make decisions in real-time. If you don’t, the organizations that are doing the above will out hire you with a faster and better candidate experience. That perfect candidate that you loved will have 5 other opportunities to consider and will be off the market when you are ready to pull the trigger, even by waiting just a few days.

And don’t lose sight of your existing talent in the race to secure new candidates. As competition rises, be aware that organizations are increasingly offering fully remote environments, higher paying contracts, or more enticing FTE packages – leading many employees to consider new opportunities as the market strengthens past the period of Covid uncertainty. Fully remote opportunities are still plentiful, and a strong preference for remote work may have your employees looking for something new if required to return onsite, even in a hybrid capacity. An active conversation with your top IT talent, if your priority is to retain them, should help guide your return-to-office plan.

The best way to compete in this new healthcare staffing environment is to be prepared. Knowing what is on the horizon is the first step in entering the race. Act swiftly and with intent, and you’ll stay in the game, securing and retaining the top talent your organization needs to succeed.