Health care staff shortages has become a hot-button issue in today’s world of work — and rightfully so. There are not enough health care workers in the U.S. to meet the demand for high-quality care. In a study, 97% of clinicians agree that the COVID-19 pandemic is a key driver of change in health care. And according to projections, by 2030 there will be a significant shortage of registered nurses in the U.S.

Though the number of registered nurses is expected to increase by 195,400 nurses in the next decade, there’ll be approximately over 200,000 openings. With a considerable portion of our population entering their golden years, we’ll need an exponentially larger health care workforce to attend to the growing volume of medical needs. The shortage of qualified medical help has also impacted patient outcomes. In many places around the country, health care staffing shortages limit and prevent access to reliable medical assistance. The problem has reached crisis level.

There’s no doubt that working on the front lines is hard work. Which is why so many health care workers leave the sector after only a few years. So, what can learning leaders do to make a career in health care more rewarding? How can we attract former health care workers back into the field and get more people to join the workforce? In this article, we’ll consider how learning and development (L&D) can improve retention and job satisfaction for health care workers.

3 Benefits of L&D in Health Care

Retaining health care workers starts with adopting a more employee-centric approach to human resources (HR) and L&D. Access to more L&D opportunities and creating career pathways for entry-level workers can help health care providers avoid future staffing issues down the road. Investing in your people can not only give them the skills they need to navigate their role, but also to grow in their career. Let’s review three other benefits to investing in your health care workforce.

1. Personal growth leads to happier employees.

Training and other L&D opportunities help employees gain and improve upon vital skills. Skill development can boost their confidence, improve job performance and create more team efficiency. When a person is good at their job, they tend to want to stay in it. You can also leverage L&D opportunities to create more meaningful relationships with employees.

Encouraging employees to expand their skills set beyond their current job functions demonstrates that the training investment isn’t just about improving job performance. Instead it shows that your company cares about employees’ personal and professional growth. That doesn’t just make for more satisfied employees — it creates more loyal ones, too.

2. A culture of excellence.

Prioritizing L&D and self-improvement can help you identify and nurture employees’ leadership potential. In turn, your homegrown leaders can allow you to establish and perpetuate a culture of excellence. That can go a long way in a heavily regulated industry, such as health care.

Encouraging organic leadership in your employee community has many benefits. It can create smoother, more productive communication between management and other employees. Employee leaders can also boost the effectiveness of vital compliance efforts.

Finally, when employees across levels act as leaders, it provides an ever-present pool of candidates capable of taking on jobs with more responsibilities. Having employees who grow with your business sends an excellent message to new hires on the team. Promoting from within is also a great retention and talent management strategy. Plus, a newly promoted team member may have an easier time settling into their new role versus a job candidate from outside the organization.

3. Mentorship turns into a partnership.

Another way to encourage a culture of excellence in your workplace is to model it for less experienced employees through a mentorship. Pairing up promising employees with mentors on the management or executive team exposes junior team members to a more advanced view of the business. It can also break down silos and increase the level of trust between different levels of your organizational structure.

Establishing an internal mentorship program can breathe life into a depleted team and encourage employee connectivity and motivation. These programs can help close widening skills gaps in health care by giving employees the chance to learn hands on and in the flow of work.

L&D Is the Key To Growing a Workforce in Health Care

Today, many health care providers are challenged with unstable, and sometimes insufficient, staffing levels. The growing population of retired baby boomers in the U.S. means our health care system needs all hands on deck. The best way to ensure that our health care workforce grows to meet future demand is by investing in our health care workers and making careers in health care more rewarding.