On Tuesday, January 19, more than 100 stakeholders from across New York City’s workforce development system and beyond joined WPTI and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) for our Healthcare Employer Symposium, the third in our series of sector-focused symposiums examining employer needs in light of COVID-19, the economic downturn, and a rapidly-changing, increasingly digital labor market.
Much attention has been understandably focused on the healthcare sector, which has played a critical role, both in New York City and beyond, as the world has wrestled with the health, social, and economic impact of COVID-19. We have witnessed the herculean efforts of frontline healthcare workers helping those impacted by the virus, often at great personal risk. Unlike some other sectors – such as hospitality, covered during our November symposium – New York City’s healthcare sector has not seen massive job losses, but instead has faced other challenges – including worker safety, incredible demands, mental health crises, and more.
In this context, representatives from hospitals, private healthcare employers and organized labor, along with economist James Parrott of the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School joined WPTI and NYCEDC for a conversation around the changing needs of the healthcare sector, and the emerging issues impacting healthcare employers, workers, and jobseekers in this current health and economic environment.
An Overview of the Healthcare Labor Market
James Parrott, one of New York City’s leading labor market economists, shared extensive data on the healthcare sector, which accounts for a large portion of New York City’s economy, and has grown significantly since 2000, in correlation with an increase in the number of New Yorkers with health insurance.
- The healthcare sector accounts for a total of 658,000 workers across New York City’s private and public healthcare institutions, with 33 percent working in home healthcare services, and 20 percent in ambulatory/outpatient care (excluding home healthcare). In total, healthcare workers account for 14 percent of all New York City payroll workers.
- The sector has experienced rapid growth since 2000, with 192,000 private payroll jobs added since 2010, especially in ambulatory and home healthcare.
- The workforce is disproportionately made up of women, with 76 percent of healthcare workers being women (compared to 50 percent of the broader NYC workforce). It also consists largely of people of color and immigrants, with immigrants representing 57 percent of the healthcare workforce. Black workers are also overrepresented in the healthcare industry, at 34 percent of healthcare workers (and 44 percent of workers in the public healthcare system), while representing 20 percent of the broader workers.
- There exists a clear hierarchy in the sector with regard to pay, with most healthcare professionals – namely registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and pharmacists – earning more than $55,000 annually, and healthcare support workers generally earning less.
- Many healthcare jobs are in high demand, especially since the arrival of COVID-19, including EMTs and paramedics, respiratory therapists, surgical technologists, and pharmacy technicians.
James Parrott also revealed serious challenges facing the healthcare sector and its workers in the age of COVID-19, including:
- A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), technology and other equipment required for patient care, and general coordination both within and across healthcare institutions.
- Incredible demands placed on workers, many of whom come from communities hit hard by COVID-19, including long hours, personal health risks, and severe mental health stressors.
Looking forward, key issues that must be addressed include:
- Ensuring a successful vaccination program and other measures to contain the pandemic. To this end, we need trusted community health workers to educate communities and ensure that they receive the vaccine and stay safe
- Creating a more resilient healthcare system, which can prevent future outbreaks and addressing inequities and community needs in healthcare delivery
- Strengthening the healthcare workforce, addressing demand for entry-level workers, creating needed pathways for healthcare careers, and developing more accessible credentialing programs.
Panel Discussion: Employers and Labor Leaders from the Healthcare Sector
We were joined by a panel, moderated by Ian Straughter of NYCEDC and consisting of key stakeholders from across the healthcare system, each bringing different perspectives on the needs of both the sector and its workers, as well as jobseekers looking to embark on careers in the healthcare field:
- Deirdre Duke of Northwell Health highlighted the hospital system’s emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and on hiring individuals representative of the communities that Northwell serves. They have developed targeted hiring programs for veterans and individuals with disabilities, and established leadership development programs within their organization, with a focus on ensuring diverse leadership. Furthermore, they have begun training programs, including an apprenticeship program for central sterile processing technicians with 1199SEIU and an EMT training in partnership with CYD and Borough of Manhattan Community College.
- Dana Politis of Montefiore Medical Center focused on Montefiore’s training partnerships with Hostos Community College, the New York City Department of Education, and local community-based organizations, which provide young adults with internships and exposure to healthcare careers, including in areas they might not have initially considered, such as more administrative and non-patient facing roles. Furthermore, the hospital works closely with its union partners to provide educational and training opportunities that enable employees to advance in their healthcare careers.
- Shannon Henning of PM Pediatrics Urgent Care discussed her company’s recent shift toward telemedicine in a COVID-19-impacted environment, as well as a rapid increase in hiring when offices reopened for COVID testing and more. This resulted in an increased need for receptionists, technicians, medical billers, and other medical professionals and support staff.
- Crys Cooper of Medical Transportation Management (MTM) shared information on the transportation aspect of the healthcare sector, as MTM coordinates transportation services for individuals with disabilities and those in need of ongoing healthcare. The company employs dispatchers, community outreach coordinators, and others, and emphasizes the importance of empathy, compassion, and cultural competency to provide strong customer service.
- Daniel Liss of the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare discussed the need to build sustainability and resiliency across the healthcare system, and to ensure that when a future pandemic arrives, the healthcare system is prepared and will not face the level of disruption it experienced due to COVID-19.
Two of our panelists focused specifically on the needs of workers in the current economic, social, and healthcare climate:
- Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez of the New York State Nurses Association discussed some of the major challenges facing nurses due to COVID-19, such as rising caseloads, understaffing, insufficient training, isolation from loved ones (to protect them from the virus), and more. Many nurses were traumatized, and felt abandoned by their employers, the healthcare system, and the government as they worked on the frontlines to help individuals recover from the effects of COVID-19. This, in turn, caused many nursing professionals to leave the field, and has dissuaded some younger jobseekers from pursuing nursing careers.
- Sandi Vito of 1199SEIU Training and Education Funds, a labor-management training collaboration that serves more than 250,000 healthcare workers and 700 employers across several northeastern states, mentioned the importance of supportive services for workers and jobseekers, beyond simply skills training, especially at a time when they are facing real trauma. She also discussed the importance of putting in place mechanisms to ensure that workers receive sufficient hours and pay, as well as healthcare benefits. Lastly, she indicated that there are currently shortages for several positions in different healthcare environments, including:
- Home Healthcare – Home Health Aides and Registered Nurses
- Long-Term Care – Licensed Practical Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, and more
- Hospitals – Nurses (specifically those with a BSN degree), Lab Technicians, Respiratory Therapists, and others
While the healthcare sector has not suffered the staggering job losses experienced by some other fields, such as hospitality, its workers have been powerfully impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, often serving on the front lines in response to the disease, and experiencing serious trauma as a result. At the same time, the sector has real hiring needs across multiple titles, which present opportunities for jobseekers and the workforce development providers that serve them. Workforce organizations working with individuals interested in healthcare careers, or who have skills or interest that align with careers that intersect with healthcare (such as administrative or transportation careers) have a wide network of employers with whom they can build relationships, as well as internship and training programs that can provide workers with stronger entry points into the field.
On Tuesday, February 16, from 8:30 to 10:30am, WPTI and NYCEDC will host a symposium focused on the technology sector, featuring employers and other stakeholders from the field. The symposium will once again feature a presentation on essential labor market data from James Parrott, and a panel and breakout discussions with employers and other key stakeholders. Please CLICK HERE to register.