Nearly three in five U.S. health care workers are optimistic about where the industry is headed, according to a new poll released today by Morning Consult.
Why it matters: Amid increasing concerns about burnout in health care and workforce shortages, the poll of more than 900 workers between Sept. 2–8 shows there is still a lot of optimism about the health care profession even as workers deal with stressful working conditions.
A common theme among the responses was the message that “working in healthcare is hard and it’s something that should only be done if you are completely committed to it.”
- Responses ranged from one worker who said “it’s a great career,” to another who said young people should avoid the field “unless you have a death wish.”
- The poll also found men were more likely than women to be optimistic about the future of the health care industry.
Trinity Health is the latest—and now the largest—U.S. provider organization to roll out a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all of its employees.
Announced Thursday and effective immediately, the nonprofit, Catholic healthcare system said the policy will extend across its entire workforce of more than 117,000 employees, including clinical staff, remote employees, contractors and “those conducting business in its healthcare facilities.”
Trinity said it will approve exemptions for religious or health reasons that are formally requested and documented. Others who don’t meet the criteria for exemption and fail to provide proof of vaccination “will face termination of employment,” according to the announcement.
Trinity said an estimated 75% of its employees have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and it hopes the new policy will bring that number closer to 100%.
“Safety is one of our core values. We feel it is important that we take every step available to us to stop the spread and protect those around us—especially the most vulnerable in our communities who cannot be vaccinated including young children and the more than 10 million people who are immunocompromised,” Trinity Health President and CEO Mike Slubowski said in a statement.
“Over the last year, Trinity Health has counted our own colleagues and patients in the too-high coronavirus death toll. Now that we have a proven way to prevent COVID-19 deaths, we are not hesitating to do our part,” he said.
Livonia, Michigan-based Trinity operates 91 hospitals and 113 continuing care locations serving more than 30 million people across 22 states. The system reports $19.4 billion in annual operating revenues and is on track to top that number having recently reported $15.1 billion in operating revenues for the nine-month period between July 2020 and March 2021.
Trinity said that most of its locations will be requiring employees to submit their proof of vaccination by Sept. 21. Should it be determined that COVID-19 vaccine boosters will be necessary down the line, the hospital said that it would similarly require employees to submit proof of their receipt “as needed.”
“The science has shown us that the COVID-19 vaccine is the single most effective tool in slowing, and even stopping, the spread of the virus,” Dan Roth, M.D., Trinity Health executive vice president and chief clinical officer, said in a statement. “As a Catholic Health Ministry—even if we work remotely or do not regularly encounter patients—we view ourselves as caregivers, and it’s important that we do everything we can to end the pandemic and save lives.”
Trinity is among the growing number of provider organizations taking a hard stance on employee COVID-19 vaccination. Among the larger of these to announce mandatory policies over the last few months are St. Louis-based Mercy, Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System, St. Louis-based SSM Health and the member hospitals of the Connecticut Hospital Association (PDF).
But perhaps the best known of the bunch has been Houston Methodist, which drew a line in the sand on June 8 and has since cut loose 153 employees who did not comply with the vaccine mandate.
That policy led to protests from the dissenting employees as well as a lawsuit that argued the system was “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.” The case was dismissed by a U.S. district judge and quickly appealed by the employees.
Other organizations such as Mass General Brigham have signaled support for a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy but said that they would not enforce the requirement until a COVID-19 vaccine receives formal approval from the FDA.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission paved the way for employer-mandated COVID-19 vaccine policies with guidance permitting the requirements “so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the [Americans with Disabilities Act] and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other [Equal Employment Opportunity] considerations.”
How much transparency is too much?
That’s the question business leaders are facing after Colorado lawmakers passed a bill requiring companies to post salary ranges for open or remote work positions in the state. California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Washington already have laws on the books mandating companies provide pay ranges to candidates who specifically ask for them or during an offer. The Colorado law takes it one step further by making companies proactively disclose the minimum and maximum salary as part of the job posting.
Though Colorado is the first state to make salary ranges available to any applicant, it won’t be the last, says Benjamin Frost, a solutions architect in Korn Ferry’s Products business. “The wind is clearly blowing in the direction of this becoming commonplace,” he says. Investors and employees want more transparency from companies, particularly around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Moreover, supporters argue providing salary ranges up front can help companies better match candidates to positions, making the hiring process more efficient.
But some companies, already under increasing wage pressure brought on by the hiring boom, apparently don’t see it that way: some recent job listings have specifically excluded candidates who live in Colorado from certain open positions. Frost says the move is less about Colorado’s talent pool and more about losing negotiating power with talent overall. “Excluding Colorado workers seems like a decent price to pay for not needing to disclose salary ranges at the moment,” he says. By contrast, he says, if and when a state like New York or California takes the step toward proactive disclosure, it will be a much bigger deal: “It is about talent pools and where companies can and can’t afford to close off access.”
Human resources leaders also argue that proactively providing pay ranges will actually make the recruiting process less, rather than more, efficient. For one, designating a salary range is tricky business. “You don’t want to limit the talent you get to look at,” says Andy De Marco, Korn Ferry’s vice president of human resources for the Americas. At the time, the range can be so broad that it could become arbitrary. A span of $100,000, for instance, expands the candidate pool and skills spectrum so much that it could slow down recruiting and, by extension, operations.
Excluding applicants from Colorado for now might give companies more time to clean up their pay practices, says Tom McMullen, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and a leader in the firm’s Total Rewards practice. He notes that posting pay ranges could expose internal inequities leaders aren’t yet prepared to deal with. For instance, suppose a company posts a range of $80,000 to $100,000 for a role, but an existing employee is still earning the minimum number after five years with the firm. “How upset will that employee be after seeing this posted range?” asks McMullen.
To be sure, optics are a huge part of the disclosure calculus for leaders. McMullen says companies are running out of time to institute fairer pay practices on their own before regulators push them to do so. “Employees will give their leaders credit for making these changes proactively,” he says.
Health system executives continue to tell us that the top issue now keeping them up at night is workforce engagement.
Exhausted from the COVID experience, facing renewed cost pressures, and in the midst of a once-in-a-generation rethink of work-life balance among employees, health systems are having increasing difficulty filling vacant positions, and holding on to key staff—particularly clinical talent. One flashpoint that has emerged recently, according to leaders we work with, is the growing divide between those working a “hybrid” schedule—part at home, part in the office—and those who must show up in person for work because of their roles. Largely this split has administrative staff on one side and clinical workers on the other, leading doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to complain that they have to come into work (and have throughout the pandemic), while their administrative colleagues can continue to “Zoom in”. There’s growing resentment among those who don’t have the flexibility to take a kid to baseball practice at 3 o’clock, or let the cable guy in at noon without scheduling time off, making the sense of burnout and malaise even more intense. Add to that the resurgence in COVID admissions in some markets, and the “help wanted” situation in the broader economy, and the health system workforce crisis looks worse and worse. Beyond raising wages, which is likely inevitable for most organizations, there is a need to rethink job design and work patterns, to allow a tired, frustrated, and—thanks to the in-person/WFH divide—envious workforce the chance to recover from an incredibly difficult year.