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Trends Shaping the Next Generation of Healthcare Workers

The healthcare industry is facing a mounting talent crisis—one where it’s become imperative for healthcare organizations and hospitals to recruit the next generation of workers. Nearly one in five healthcare workers quit their job during the pandemic, and it’s estimated that there will be 194,500 annual openings for registered nurses between 2020 and 2030.

Yet despite the obvious need to recruit a new generation of healthcare workers, that recruitment has become more nuanced than ever. Several new factors are influencing what it will take to attract the next wave of talent, and it’s crucial to understand all of them—from pandemic burnout and the gigification of healthcare to the expansion of new care fields. First, let’s examine exactly what’s at stake when it comes to meeting the next generation’s needs—and how your organization can achieve this.

How an aging population will affect both sides of care

According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the share of the U.S. population aged 65 and over has not only increased from 14% in 2012 to 17% in 2022, but is projected to continue climbing and reach 21% by 2032. The average spend on healthcare is larger for this demographic than any other age group, leading to an anticipated increase in total need for healthcare support.

This aging population not only affects who will need care, but also who will be able to provide it. Baby Boomer registered nurses made up nearly two-thirds of the RN workforce by 1990. And despite Gen X and millennials entering the space, Montana State University found that Baby Boomers still made up almost 40% of RNs in 2015.

Understanding the needs of the next generation of healthcare workers will involve paying attention to their wants and needs—largely born of disruptions from the past several years and changes to the field itself.

Pandemic burnout fuels an increased desire for work-life balance

Pre-pandemic, the healthcare industry already grappled with burnout—now, it’s become an epidemic of its own. According to a survey from the CDC in 2022, 46% of healthcare workers reported feelings of burnout very often, compared to 32% in 2018. Everyone from doctors and nurses to custodial staff, administrators, technicians and more are working longer hours due to ongoing shortages—and they’re fed up with the imbalance of this lifestyle.

Recruiting the next generation of workers will hinge on providing adequate work-life balance and flexibility that can prevent the physical and mental fatigue that lead to this disengagement. It will start by proactively addressing their very real—and very understandable—desire for a more sustainable way of living.

The gig economy is driving demand for greater flexibility

Similar to how the pandemic has created an increased focus on work-life balance, the overall gigification of healthcare has also contributed to clinicians considering their options and pursuing creative ways to make a living. Many traditional W-2 employees have branched out to gig work finding that they can earn more—and earn it more quickly—by working as independent contractors on their own terms.

Travel nursing and other flexible gigs have provided clinicians with new options that wind up paying more than their traditional W-2 roles did—all while offering scheduling freedom and independence. The rise of telenursing and telemedicine have also expanded, allowing healthcare workers a remote option that was seemingly off-limits for their progression in the past.

In order to attract the next generation of healthcare talent, organizations will need to consider themselves in competition with these gig-driven options, thinking of new ways to provide attractive incentives and flexibility to their workforce. A recent report shows that 92% of healthcare companies are planning on offering real-time payments, for example, as a way to reach the new bar for fast, flexible payments that the gig economy has set.

The rise of new care fields

Another trend influencing how healthcare organizations should approach recruiting the next generation is the expansion of alternative forms of care. As people explore different care practices such as acupuncture, massage, and other holistic wellness modalities, hospital systems and healthcare organizations will need to fill these unique roles, too.

It’s estimated that nearly 60% of Americans are using some form of holistic healthcare or alternative medicine. As people continue to explore new care options and the interest in holistic methods grows, healthcare organizations will need to answer this growing demand with the right trained professionals who can deliver quality, evidence-based care.

Already grappling with a shortage of workers following the pandemic, the healthcare industry prepares not only for an aging population in need of care, but also the retirement of a prolific workforce. Healthcare organizations will need to proactively engage the next generation of workers in order to meet demand.

They can start by factoring in these trends and creating an environment that supports a healthy work-life balance, finding opportunities to prioritize flexibility, and leaving room to staff up for new and expanding care fields. Companies who can proactively meet these demands will be able to better recruit the next generation of healthcare professionals and provide a better level of care to patients.


This article was written by Atif Siddiqi from MedCity News and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to

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