2018 Healthcare Workforce Trends: Succession Planning and Employee Turnover Are Challenges

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Healthcare as an industry continues to evolve in dramatic fashion, and 2018 will be no different in that regard. Everything from reacting to legislative changes to the Affordable Care Act to difficulties in staff recruitment and retention, not to mention technological advances that also bring challenges, is forcing administrators to be more flexible than ever.

Across the country, in systems both large and small, healthcare leaders are stepping up. Customized, unique approaches to expanding and improving core operational issues are being crafted and rolled out, with the result being that systems that can adapt more quickly than ever to their own specific circumstances. Take a look at some major trends facing healthcare today, and how solutions are being implemented and engaged.

The Retirement Conundrum: Who’s Going to Replace Current Healthcare Leaders?

Many nurses older than 60 are retiring, and they are joined by senior administrators in every other aspect of healthcare. When these people head out the door, they are taking their vast institutional knowledge with them. Are there strong replacements waiting in the wings? And if that pipeline isn’t robust enough, where will the next generation of leaders come from? And operationally speaking, C-suite exits are creating gaps in administrative structures that nurses and other clinicians rely on to keep operations running smoothly.

So how to prepare for the losses? For one, look beyond the skillsets these retirees possess. In a recent interview, Inova Hospital System CEO Knox Singleton said that he thought his successor shouldn’t just have his strengths, such as launching specialty programs, but also be someone with a deeper background in science, research and clinical knowledge, the better to help new systems evolve (“Why Inova’s Retiring CEO…,” 2017).

Whatever the position coming open, putting programs into place that allow for training and mentorship with current employees will be crucial. While they can’t pass along everything they know in a relatively short window of time, they can impart key information that will smooth the path for their replacements. It also might be worth seeing if retirees will be available and willing to act in an emeritus, consultative capacity so that even more knowledge can be gleaned from them even after they are gone.

Employee Turnover: Problem, or Choice?

An online search for healthcare jobs will yield pages of advertisements and recruiter postings. Obviously, the jobs are there. But what’s being done to keep people in those positions once they are hired? High turnover is bad for business, in healthcare or any other industry sector, because of the time and expense surrounding the onboarding and training of new employees.

For healthcare systems, this conversation often zeroes in on nurses, but choosing to let other areas slide in terms of retention can be equally detrimental to costs, as well as patient care and satisfaction. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, replacement healthcare costs for non-nurse and non-physical healthcare jobs can cost as much as 20 percent of annual pay (Long, 2017).

The problem is multifaceted, and so is the solution. Clear changes, such as better and more quickly obtained benefits, are becoming increasingly commonplace, as well as mentorship and residency programs alongside leadership training with an eye toward heading off problems—workload seen as too heavy, lack of growth opportunities—before employees leave. Where to begin? It seems a good starting point is to analyze what areas of staff have the highest turnover and begin to dig into the reasons why those people are leaving and plan corrective action. (Bean, 2016).

Learn more about about HealthStream’s Healthcare Talent Management Solutions.


Bean, M. (n.d.). 3 factors driving high turnover at your hospital — and what to do about them. Retrieved from https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/human-capital-and-risk/3-factors-driving-high-turnover-at-your-hospital-and-what-to-do-about-them.html

Long, L. (n.d.). Staff Turnover Top Concern for Healthcare Recruiters. Retrieved from https://www.healthecareers.com/article/healthcare-news/staff-turnover

Why Inova's retiring CEO doesn't want his replacement to be 'someone like me'. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2017/10/10/inova-ceo-retires