The healthcare talent shortage is nothing new. Even two years ago, CNN was predicting a shortfall of 446,300 home health aides, 98,700 lab technologists and technicians, 95,000 nursing assistants, and 29,400 nurse practitioners by 2025.

But the gulf between supply and demand has only grown wider since then, according to Ryan Vet, founder of healthcare staffing app Boon.

“In recent years, it feels as if there is a growing need,” Boon says. He identifies a number of factors behind the intensification of the shortage, including the aging of the baby boomer generation, the second largest generational cohort in the US today. As millions of baby boomers head into their retirement years, their need for healthcare services increases.

According to the National Council on Aging, 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77 percent have at least two. To effectively meet the needs of this population, the healthcare industry simply needs a larger workforce than ever before.

“Due to their stage in life, [baby boomers] often have heightened healthcare-related needs,” Vet says. “Though there is an increasing patient base, the workforce is not growing at a fast enough pace to keep up. Millennials are not entering the medical workforce as quickly as is need to remedy the shortage.”

Compounding the matter, Vet notes that other industries are outcompeting the healthcare industry for young talent by offering higher wages for less strenuous work.

“Many companies, such as Target and McDonald’s, are offering $12+ an hour,” he says. “In many situations, nurse aides are making [the same amount] or less for a job that is arguably more taxing physically, mentally, and emotionally. Plus, it has less flexibility in most cases.”

Even more lucrative medical doctor roles are facing talent shortages. As The Washington Post reports, fewer doctors are choosing to practice primary care because they can make more money by going into specialty practices, like cardiology or dermatology.

A Mounting Set of Challenges

In addition to the unique challenges healthcare recruiters and employers face, they must also contend with the same legislative and technological upheavals that are transforming recruiting across all industries.

California’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which makes the definition of “independent contractor” much stricter, makes it harder for healthcare organizations operating in the state to hire temporary workers to fill talent gaps. While there are exemptions for physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, travel healthcare professionals, and other healthcare workers are all subject to the new regulation. In most cases, healthcare organizations cannot hire these people on a 1099 basis any longer. Companies will either have to hire them as full W-2 employees, or not hire them at all.

“AB5 has made a big impact on how freelancers work,” Vet says. “While the law is a California-based law, it has set a precedent for other states. New Jersey and New York both have similar pieces of legislation underway, and other states such as Illinois have been rumored to be considering similar laws.”

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Vet also says that “systems like Glassdoor and Indeed have made recruiters’ jobs exponentially more challenging” in the healthcare space, in part because these platforms can be susceptible to misinformation.

“Candidates are inevitably going to look up a practice or healthcare system online to learn about salary, reviews, and the inside scoop,” Vet says. “The reality is those platforms, while a good reference point, are not always accurate. Individuals can inflate or deflate their reported salaries, and companies can have reviews — either positive or negative — that may not always represent the workplace well.”

Pitching Healthcare Roles to Millennials

In the face of these mounting challenges, healthcare recruiters and employers may wonder exactly what the right move is. One possibility: Learn to target millennials and more effectively market healthcare jobs to them. That requires first understanding what millennials are looking for in their careers.

According to Vet, recruiters and employers should note that culture and benefits are major draws for today’s millennial workers.

“Millennials, as a whole, are more likely to care about the benefits extended to them than they [are to] care about their actual salary,” Vet says. “Don’t get me wrong — millennials want to be compensated well. However, they are likely to trade extra salary for added perks, like paid time off.”

Vet also stresses that millennials “want to be happy. To them, work is supposed to be fun.”

While healthcare organizations should structure their pitches to prospects around benefits and culture, they also need to be cognizant of the other thing millennials want from their employers: honesty.

“Often, companies try to oversell their work environments by talking about team parties, company outings, added perks and benefits, frequent pay raises, opportunities for promotion, etc.,” Vet says.

Laying it on too thick will likely backfire. You might get some millennials through the door, but as soon as they realize the reality of the work doesn’t line up with the picture you painted, you’ll be back to square one.

“Underpromise and overdeliver,” Vet says. “Millennials will leave their jobs not long after starting [if] they feel that they were misled in the hiring process. The longevity of the employee’s tenure starts with the recruiter setting realistic expectations.”

Emphasize the things millennials want, but don’t get carried away. Promote flexibility, clear career paths, supportive cultures, and bountiful benefits, but only insofar as you actually offer those perks.

As Vet says, “It is important not to recruit [millennials] to accept a job, but to stay in the job.”

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