January 17th, 2023
Increasingly dire staffing shortages are leading innovative organizations to broaden access to education and mobility.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) anticipates that the sector will need to fill over 2 million jobs over the course of this decade.¹
Rising to this challenge remains a shared priority across healthcare education programs and employers.
Education programs are capacity-constrained
Faculty shortages and regulatory restrictions make it difficult for many programs to serve students at a rate commensurate with demand.
In October of 2022, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) surveyed over 900 nursing schools across the US on their unfilled faculty and found there were over 2,100 full-time vacancies — not including additional positions schools anticipated needing in order to accommodate enormous student demand.²
Workers in allied health who want to fill in-demand roles struggle to see ways to advance
Last year, Guild surveyed 558 healthcare workers across clinical and non-clinical allied health roles to better understand their perspectives on education and career mobility.
We asked members in entry-level, lower-paying clinical and non-clinical essential roles what role they aspired to have 5 to 10 years from now.
Sixty-five percent selected low-paying allied health roles that would offer them low mobility without further education.
This is a clear indicator of a missing conversation around career pathways in the healthcare field.³
The below outline indicates the factors that survey respondents said influenced their decisions to stay in healthcare or leave the field.
Role #1: Frontline non-allied health workers
- Wants to advance with current employer
- More likely to want to leave healthcare than other roles
- Least likely to cite personal fulfillment as a pull factor
Aspirations to move into advanced patient care: 10%
Management aspirations: 25%
Role #2: Technician
- Likelier than other categories to want to stay in current role type
- Most likely to cite job security as a top pull factor for staying in healthcare
Aspirations to move into advanced patient care: 20%
Management aspirations: 9.5%
Role #3: Primary patient care
- 20% are interested in switching to technician roles
- Personal fulfillment is strongest pull factor
Aspirations to move into advanced patient care: 30%
Management aspirations: 5%
Source: Guild Webinar "How Schools Can Improve Education Access and Outcomes for Aspiring Allied Health Professionals" 2022
Practical research observations
Individuals in frontline non-allied health roles (e.g. environmental services, housekeeping) were most likely to be interested in pursuing management positions and least likely to aspire to pursue advanced patient care positions.
However, 66% percent said they would be more likely to pursue education in a health-related field if their employer sponsored their tuition.³
This indicates that access to education can open access to pathways that previously appeared unattainable.
Additional insights from this allied health research are explored in this recorded Guild webinar.
What approaches can broaden equitable healthcare education access and career mobility?
There is a lot of potential for movement for individuals working in healthcare.
The BLS anticipates seeing an average of 2 million job openings per year through 2031 to accommodate the needs the industry is seeing both in the form of growth and roles to fill as talent exits the industry workforce.⁴
Tech-enabled solutions can increase equitable learning access
The pandemic demonstrated the extraordinary power that online learning can have in supporting healthcare students to continue advancing through program requirements that can be accomplished in asynchronous or remote settings.
This can (and should) inspire us to think more broadly about innovations necessitated by the pandemic.⁵
Though many learning and policy restrictions were lifted as emergency measures, further leveraging tech-enabled learning can, with the support of appropriate regulatory bodies, help more students fulfill their didactic requirements.⁵
This includes students learning in more rural or isolated education “deserts,” as well as other learner populations, including working adults.
Known interventions that support working adult learners can help.
3 key ways to support more learners earning nursing credentials
A white paper co-written by Guild and ANCC, Pathways to Lessen the Nursing Shortage and Increase Equity in the Field for Working Adult Learners, highlights these three key ways that schools of nursing and regulatory bodies can deploy and support to help more working learners earn nursing credentials more equitably and expediently.
1. Competency-based education (CBE)
In other words, prioritizing student learning as a measure of progress (rather than time spent in the classroom).
A key hallmark of CBE is not only that it is designed intentionally to help learners demonstrate mastery of specific competencies that tie to their career aspirations — but that these skill sets are communicated transparently by the program prior to enrollment.⁶
This transparency, combined with hands-on coursework, can equip RNs to enter the field more prepared to practice — and provide healthcare organizations with clearer expectations of the capabilities of new RN hires.
2. Credit for existing competencies
Credit for existing competencies and experiences (aka C4X) can help eliminate redundancies and accelerate program completion.
Learning can happen anywhere. Institutions that can measure and qualify classroom and on-the-job learning —and provide learners with credit for it — can ultimately attract more working adults and equip them to move through programs more equitably.
3. Stackable learning
In other words, breaking a degree down into its requisite parts to create flexible, non-sequential learning pathways.
To enable students to advance today without sacrificing the opportunity to continue making progress toward a degree, some education programs are offering onramps in the form of stackable credentials.
Such programs can enable students to gain in-demand skills for higher-paying future-aligned roles today, along with knowing credentials earned can be applied toward degree requirements.⁸
Use clear mobility pathways to help learners visualize where education can take them
Employers bear a responsibility to support their talent in understanding the potential pathways their careers could take.
Innovative employers are already doing this work — as outlined in The Josh Bersin Company’s recent report, which details a healthcare-specific case study (view a few takeaways here).⁹
Education programs can further help healthcare students navigate career options and entry points.
Ensuring familiarity with corporate skilling needs and helping students disambiguate potential pathways can broaden learners’ horizons and better position them for fulfilling careers.
Helping learners see a breadth of career options with multiple onramps, both educationally and internally, can help them make learning program choices that align with their goals, interests, and growth opportunities with their employers.
There is no shortage of interventions that can empower more individuals to fulfill their aspirations to pursue a career in healthcare.
When mission-aligned partners come together, opportunity is created and seized.
For a more in-depth look at this topic, check out our white paper Pathways to Lessen the Nursing Shortage While Increasing Equity.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook, Healthcare Occupations,” 2022. Projected labor needs from 2021-2031. Accessed 1 December 2022
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions for Academic Year 2022-2023,” 2022
- Guild, “Webinar: How Schools Can Improve Education Access and Outcomes for Aspiring Allied Health Professionals,” February, 2022. Results based on an October, 2021 online panel aggregator survey of 558 allied healthcare workers (including frontline, non-clinical roles), with no credential above a bachelor’s degree, and a working week of at least 20 hours.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook, Healthcare Occupations,” 2022. Projected labor outlook from 2021-2031. Accessed 1 December 2022.
- Guo, M.Z., Allen, J., Sakumoto, M. et al. “Reimagining Undergraduate Medical Education in a Post-COVID-19 Landscape,” The Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2022
- Guild, “Gearing Up: How Competencies Enable the Agile Work-Learn Model,” 2020
- Guild’s cumulative internal data as of 07.01.2022 compared to the National Center for Education Statistics report, August 2014
- EDUCAUSE, “EDUCAUSE 2022: Stackable Credentials Give Students a Roadmap to the Career They Want,” 2022
- The Josh Bersin Company, “Career Pathways: Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Today,” p. 20, 2022