Healthcare in 2023 is shaping up to be both challenging and full of opportunities for those organizations who have the foresight to recruit top-notch executive talent that will help them succeed. Four senior search consultants from HealthSearch Partners, one of the nation’s leading healthcare executive search firms, share their insight into the key forces that will shape the search experience in 2023.
Staffing shortages will continue. Ivan Bartolome (Ivan@healthsearchparatners.com), HealthSearch Partners president, sees staffing shortages as a top concern for healthcare executives this year. He is encouraged to see hospitals and health systems use innovative, out-of-the-box approaches to tackle shortages head-on. “The searches we have recently conducted focus on recruiting executives who know how to inspire, engage, and retain the current workforce and create a culture that will attract nurses and other allied health professionals to a “must-work-for” organization. We’re also working with clients who have relationships with nursing schools that can provide a steady pipeline of nursing talent to their organizations and the entire healthcare industry. One long-standing barrier to expanding nursing education has been recruiting and retaining qualified nursing school faculty. Academic nursing leaders must be savvy and creative in order to retain and find faculty who are sometimes paid less than what the nurse they are training will make one or two years after graduation. Our clients are focused on finding leaders for their nursing schools who understand these issues and are committed to resolving them so more excellently trained nurses can be added to the workforce soon.”
Walking the social issues tightrope. Ed Fry (EdFry@healthsearchpartners.com), founding partner of HealthSearch Partners, is helping C-suite and boards of trustee clients navigate the tricky waters of social issues. “If an organization finds itself needing an executive leader, they are often caught in the tug-of-war between serving the entire community and considering the views of key constituents including donors and vendors. The overriding goal should be to provide the best care possible to every patient, every time. Quality of care decisions shouldn’t be shaped by opinions or pressure from certain parties. This is a difficult path to tread for some organizations and boards, especially as the environment surrounding healthcare continues to fracture and polarize. My North Star when advising clients on this issue is for them to keep their mission front and center and put the patient at the center of all they do. This will provide a steady course for them to follow.”
Organizational unrest and C-suite churn. Neill Marshall (Neillm@healthsearchpartners.com), chairman, and founding partner of HealthSearch Partners sees challenges related to the pandemic leaving the healthcare workforce restless and, in some cases, angry. “Nurses and other front-line workers feel undervalued, overworked, and threatened with potential harm from patients and families. That’s why interest in unions is spiking across hospitals and health systems. These dynamics are reverberating throughout C-suites, and executive talent’s churn is near record rates. In fact, 23 healthcare CEOs left their positions in January 2023, one shy of the record of 24 CEO exits in 2018, according to an article in the March 1 issue of Becker’s Hospital Review. An alarming trend we’ve identified and have been studying is the dramatic rise in no-confidence votes in healthcare organizations, usually leading to changes at the top. We’ve interviewed numerous executives who have been the subject of no-confidence votes. These interviews have revealed common trends and provide notes of caution. One message is loud and clear, a no-confidence vote is the nuclear option that affects not only executives who are targets but the organization as a whole. The repercussions last for years, from a wounded culture to a decimated leadership team to an uncertain and questioning front-line staff. We think this trend is so critical to healthcare organizations’ current and future success; we plan to issue several thought leader articles and a white paper on the subject within the coming months.
Operational challenges abound with returning to profitability at the top of the list. Doug Duffield, (DDuffield@heallthsearchpartners.com), HealthSearch Partners vice president, approaches search engagements through his lens as a former hospital CEO. “Based on recent searches and discussions with my former colleagues, healthcare executives are grappling with three primary challenges as they strive to return their organizations to profitability: labor, supply chain, and the human and financial costs of delayed care due to the pandemic. Clinical and support staff are suffering extremely high rates of burnout, leading to near record levels of turnover in the executive, management, and frontline staffs. Escalating inflation has almost overnight created pressure on wages. An example is a hospital in California that is giving 16% cost of living raises to help their employees “just keep up.” The cost of a travel nurse is about 3 times that of a full-time paid staff nurse, adding significantly to the cost of labor issue. To combat these dynamics, organizations are looking for leaders who can lead authentic employee wellbeing and engagement efforts, and restructure benefits plans to include critically needed services such free online counseling. The executive candidates most in demand are those who can build and lead an authentic culture where people want to work and where they can thrive. Supply chain interruptions continue to plague healthcare operations. The cost of supplies is spiraling ever higher and GPOs who healthcare organizations could turn to for supply chain solutions can no longer guarantee delivering supplies or saving money on purchased supplies. As a result, healthcare organizations are buying into and investing in manufacturers and suppliers to guarantee supply availability and control over supply costs. Finally, delayed care due to the pandemic is exacting a heavy toll on patients and providers. Hospital ERs are seeing sicker patients, with an increased number of stroke and STEMI patients. For example, one southern California healthcare organization used to average eight STEMIs a month across the county, but is now seeing 10 STEMIs per month at just one hospital. In addition, the percentage of stage 4 cancers is up dramatically. As a result, clients are seeking executives who are familiar with and who have achieved success with telemedicine and care at home via remote monitoring. They are also desiring executives who are innovative, who can envision and realize alternatives sites of care, beyond the hospital.
About the authors: Ivan Bartolome, Neill Marshall, Ed Fry, and Doug Duffield have a combined total of decades of experience in healthcare executive search. Together, they have led thousands of successful searches for some of the nation’s leading healthcare organizations.
About HealthSearch Partners: HealthSearch Partners is a nationally recognized healthcare executive search firm. We partner with mission-driven hospitals and health systems to find leaders who are focused on success. As a mid-sized firm, our senior search leaders work with clients throughout the engagement, accessing a larger pool of talent, to find the right candidate that is the right fit. www.healthsearchpartners.com.