December 7, 2023

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Healthcare needs a new playbook to retain talent: Upskilling can help

Throughout the “Great Resignation” healthcare has lost an estimated 20 percent of its workforce, including employees in a variety of healthcare support occupations. Nearly 1.7 million people have quit their healthcare jobs in 2022 which is equivalent to almost 3 percent of the healthcare workforce each month. And according to a survey of 1,000 healthcare professionals, 28 percent quit their jobs because of burnout, taking with them years of institutional and hands-on expertise. This talent loss, whether resulting from retirement or resignation, is hurting employers’ ability to meet current and future patient needs.

Retaining healthcare workers is vital. Experienced employees are too valuable to lose and patient care suffers with understaffed healthcare practices and organizations. While some cite work conditions, long hours or inadequate compensation as reasons for leaving, others have indicated scheduling inflexibility and personal caregiving responsibilities. This leaves healthcare employers with a younger generation of workers, who may have a propensity to change jobs more frequently and less interest holding a single role for years or decades (i.e. 20 years as a nurse in the same hospital, 15 years as a coder in the same medical office, etc.). All of this talent will need an appealing career ladder in healthcare and training for both current and future healthcare roles.

New methods for workforce development

In this evolving workplace, upskilling is the key to retaining employees. It also serves to lure back early retirees, job hoppers, and boomers looking to pursue a second career after retirement. Upskilling takes on new meaning, evolving from a professional development tactic to a fundamental practice integrated from day one of an employee’s tenure. It ensures that employees remain current with operations, can shoulder new responsibilities, and meet changing expectations. Traditional education could provide the baseline for the skills employers seek, particularly when it comes to soft skills such as communication, empathy, active listening, and professionalism. However, only employers can ensure that employees will possess the relevant skills to pursue lifelong careers with advancement and new experiences.

Upskilling takes many forms such as online education to obtain associate degrees for programs ranging from medical billing and receptionist training to healthcare accounting or healthcare management. Certifications in specific administrative and health service areas provide employees with the skills and tools they need to stay relevant in addition to building lasting career paths. The key to upskilling for employers is to develop highly flexible, market-relevant programs that enable rapid upskilling opportunities for their workforce.

“Stackable credits” are another example. These can form the building blocks of a degree and/ or a career. These credentials, which include certifications, licenses, badges, and apprenticeships are considered recognizable achievements and provide an accurate assessment of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Flexible and cost-sensitive, stackable credits are also ideally suited to the experiences and challenges of the non-traditional student cohorts likely to dominate higher education in the coming decades. Continuing Medical Education (CME) also forms a core component of the stackable credentials many workers, particularly in-demand allied health workers, now earn through their careers in order to boost advancement.

Upskilling requires a cultural shift

Finally, upskilling requires a cultural shift, one where adopting the traits of a life-long learner is important. Employers and employees will have to embrace healthcare disruption to the point where upskilling is no longer considered a once-and-done, but the notion of upskilling dissolves into one of continuous learning. While employers promote opportunities for employees to learn, employees must willingly seek out learning for the sake of learning itself. This is the only way to ensure that employees will be ready to adapt quickly and confidently to future advancements in addition to pursuing robust and meaningful careers in healthcare.

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