6 Strategies to Address the Critical Behavioral Health Workforce Shortage

6 Strategies to Address the Critical Behavioral Health Workforce Shortage

There is a critical and growing workforce shortage of behavioral health professionals that will increase exponentially in the next seven years in several sub-specialties, resulting in millions not receiving treatment and costing the overall health care system hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Problem is Critical, the Impact Enormous, the Solutions Many, the Time is Now.

By 2030, analysts predict that, if no workforce changes are made and other trends continue, there will be only one geriatric psychiatrist for every 6,000 older Americans with mental illness and substance abuse issues.

Lack of diversity

Only 6 percent of psychologists, 6 percent of advanced practice psychiatric nurses, 13 percent of social workers, and 21 percent of psychiatrists come from diverse backgrounds.

These shortages are the result of:

  • Overwhelming scarcity of professionals entering the field to meet demand.
  • Insufficient financial incentives to choose BH over other healthcare fields.
  • Aging of the population creating increased demand for geriatric BH services while MDs, Nurse Practitioners and other BH specialists are reaching retirement age and exiting in increasing numbers.
  • Inequality of reimbursement between medical and behavioral health services resulting in lower pay.
  • Rising costs of graduate education making it unattainable to many.

Unless we begin to address this shortage systematically on an organizational and national level, this crisis will increase exponentially in the next decade.

If your organization has been struggling to fill mission-critical roles, here are some proven strategies that can be applied locally or an industry-wide basis.

Reach Out to Business Schools for Mid and Upper Managers

Routinely, behavioral health providers establish relationships with universities for required clinical internships or medical residencies, but this does not extend into management internships or executive business programs.

In contrast, within the finance and consulting industry, we find that corporate leaders systematically recruit, train, retain and promote the best and brightest from leading graduate programs.

Graduate degrees in leadership and health care administration are growing as are executive MBAs. This growth presents an opportunity for our industry. I believe that it’s time for behavioral health organizations to start tapping into these programs by partnering with universities and creating paid internships and/or offering educational stipends for these executives.

Get on the Radar of Potential Recruits

Many community colleges are offering certification programs for nursing, mental health, and addiction professionals. If your local university does not offer these programs, engage with school leaders and other local health care organizations to create certification training. Provide staff from your organization to lead some courses.

Promote Career Ladder Opportunities

Develop a forward-thinking description of opportunities for entry-level positions, articulating the path to upward mobility. Establish initiatives that support the acquisition of new skills through classes with tuition reimbursement provided by your organization, or other training/certification programs. It is not uncommon for educational stipends or tuition reimbursement to have a repayment requirement, making employees responsible for repayment if they resign in advance of a target date. Employees stay where they are recognized and valued for their contributions and, given the opportunity to grow with their organization. Make sure your organization includes in its values and mission, a commitment to helping staff grow professionally.

Offer Employees Job Flexibility

Work-life balance is important to all employees. Allow staff some flexibility to address personal work-life issues such as taking a late lunch to pick up their children from school, or flexible schedules that allow for working from home for a couple of half days a week. Often, employers think employees are doing less or goofing off if they are at home. The reality is that many employees do their best thinking and work without the normal office interruptions.

Conduct Wage Surveys

Be sure that the wages you’re offering are commensurate with the education, experience, and the responsibility required of the specialists that you hire. Once hired, there are many other factors the lead to employee engagement and retention, but salary plays a significant role in the initial attractiveness of a job.

Consider Hiring a Recruiter

If you’re struggling to fill a critical role, or you’re in a time crunch, consider hiring outside assistance. Recruiters source professionals who are already gainfully employed. It’s important to work with a recruiter who has an established network that will provide you with immediate access to the right candidate pool. Recruiters are skillful at identifying strong candidates, getting them interested, helping you with job offer negotiation and closing the deal.

Now more than ever, it’s important to engage and retain valuable employees. It will also take some investment in developing new strategies and tactics to expand your access to job candidates and to recruit professionals in the field when you need them.

About JDi

JDi helps organizations to identify and acquire executive talent. We offer recruitment that is quick and efficient so you can get back to work.

Celebrating 34 years in the industry, JDi is nationally recognized as a consulting and executive search firm in the behavioral health and human services field. Visit: www.jeridavis.com for more information or email: info@jeridavis.com. You can also Follow Us @JDi_TopTalent.