Healthcare Hiring: Looking Back, Looking Forward to 2015

By Jennifer Larson

Healthcare hiring took a major leap in 2014, with statistics showing major employment gains over 2013.

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 2.95 million new jobs were created in 2014, and more than one in ten were in the healthcare sector. In fact, 311,000 jobs were created in healthcare last year, compared with 2013, when 203,000 new healthcare jobs were logged.

Even hospitals, which logged no employment growth in 2013, added some jobs in 2014. BLS data shows that hospitals added about 47,000 jobs in 2014, for a growth rate of about 1 percent. All told, a total of 14.9 million people were employed in healthcare at the end of 2014.

“It was one of the strongest years in probably the past five years for healthcare hiring,” said Ralph Henderson, president of healthcare staffing at AMN Healthcare.

Why the bounce back?

Many experts point out that the overall economy had started improving, and the employment situation in healthcare followed suit. With more people employed, that translated into more people with employer-sponsored health insurance who could access care, Henderson noted.

Additionally, with the expansion of health insurance rolls through the Affordable Care Act, more people were accessing healthcare services, and organizations hired staff to provide that care. What will hiring look like in 2015?

Reimbursement pressures and the move to value-based care have spurred healthcare systems to implement some structural changes in the way that they deliver care, and more and more care is being shifted to the outpatient setting.

BLS data shows that more jobs were created in ambulatory care settings than in hospitals in 2014, and that trend may continue in 2015.

Caroline Steinberg, vice president of trends analysis for the American Hospital Association, said she might characterize the current general mood toward hiring on the hospital front as “cautious.” “They are probably hesitant to hire too much,” she said, noting that some may be waiting to find out if any efforts to delay or undo coverage expansion are successful or not.

But for the contingent staffing business, the outlook for 2015 is promising.

After a lackluster stretch, orders for temporary staff rebounded sharply for AMN Healthcare, starting in Q3 and lasting through Q4 of 2014. In fact, Henderson said, the company received orders during the fall for travel nurses and other similar positions that were on a par with the number of orders they were getting in 2007, before the recession hit.

“Our allied health business strengthened as well,” he said, noting that the growth in ambulatory care and home care has been a boon for that segment of his company’s business. And that bodes well for 2015.

“We expect demand to stay at very high levels,” Henderson said. “Nothing is changing from a reimbursement perspective. We expect U.S. employment to continue to strengthen, which will mean more employer-sponsored insurance.”