Although health systems in Northeast Ohio are looking for skilled workers in nearly every position, the top priority for all of them is finding a nurse.
"Every RN is the golden goose," said Tony Montville, the Cleveland branch manager for Medical Staffing Network, a national health care staffing company. "The nirvana of recruiting success is being able to get a good, solid RN."
Northeast Ohio faces a projected shortage of 3,500 nurses by 2020 — a fate that hospital officials throughout the region are working to address.
While nurses are the No. 1 need, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and other health care extenders are all top of mind — as well as entry-level positions across the board.
Health care is facing the same challenge as many industries: The baby boomers are sunsetting into retirement, setting many employers up for a frantic search of experienced workers. But for health care, the hit is two fold: As their providers retire, the aging population of Northeast Ohio will continue to demand more care.
The problem becomes exponential, said Pat Cirillo, vice president of initiatives and analytics for the Center for Health Affairs, an advocacy group for Northeast Ohio hospitals. The average 75 or 80 year old uses five to six times more health care than an average 55 year old, she said.
"As we talk about shortages in workforce, you have to get beyond just, 'Oh, they're not out there' to 'How do you go find them?' and 'How do you partner with the right organizations?' and in some cases, 'How do you build your own?'" said Maria Miller, system director for talent acquisition for Summa Health.
A registered nurse is by far the most common job posting on OhioMeansJobs.com, a state-sponsored job posting portal, with roughly 4,200 annual job openings, according to a November 2016 report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Nationwide, registered nurses are projected to add the second highest number of jobs between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual mean wage for registered nurses in Ohio is $62,800, according to 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"There's just not enough RNs, so we have to pull together as a region and tackle that," said Kim Shelnick, vice president of talent acquisition for University Hospitals. "And there's other areas where there's shortages too — it's just not in RNs. But the need is so large for RNs, that's where we put a lot of our effort."