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Next decade Health care to lead state job growth

October 4, 2018

Connecticut’s employment rolls are projected to grow by 5.9 percent between now and 2026. The U.S. is expected to increase its job base by 7.4 percent during the same span. And the state’s health care sector is predicted to expand even more, with a 9.5 percent rise in headcount.

Those numbers in a new state Department of Labor report underscore the robust outlook of a sector projected to add about 21,200 jobs between 2016 and 2026, the greatest increase for any industry in the state during that span. Health care providers, including area hospitals, say they are ready for the increased hiring — which is driven by an aging population — but a tight labor market heightens the challenge of filling the additional positions.

“We’re responding to patient-care needs,” said Melissa Turner, vice president of talent acquisition for the Yale New Haven Health system, which includes Bridgeport, Greenwich and Yale New Haven hospitals. “Keeping up with research and technology dictates that more primary care and specialty services be offered. And we’re also enhancing outpatient services to further optimize opportunities for patients to receive high-quality and accessible care.”

Ongoing growth

Between 2016 and 2026, demand for health care and social assistance services is projected to create nearly 4 million jobs, accounting for 35 percent of a projected overall U.S. jobs increase of 11.5 million, according to the Labor Department study.

In Connecticut, the approximately 21,200 new health care jobs — equal to the industry’s increase between 2006 and 2016 — would account for 22 percent of the state job’s growth in the next decade.

Local hospitals’ employment levels reflect the field’s growth. During the past five years, headcount in the Stamford Health system, which includes Stamford Hospital, has grown 21 percent, to about 3,300.

Orthopedics, perioperative nursing and physical therapy represent some of the quickly growing specialties in the system, which opened a new 650,000-square-foot building at Stamford Hospital in the fall of 2016.

“For the most part, we are very successful in attracting new talent,” said Elaine Guglielmo, Stamford Health’s vice president of human resources and organization development. “We have a new hospital facility that is a very attractive place for professionals to practice their craft. One with all private rooms and new technology — that’s a major distinguishing factor. And we have a very generous benefits package.”

During the next four years, the Greenwich Hospital network is expected to add approximately 50 to 100 clinical positions, including about a dozen primary-care physicians. Systemwide, Yale New Haven Health’s growth would likely be “multiples” of the Greenwich Hospital increase, according to Turner.

“Adding primary care physicians will drive the need for more specialty care for their patients, and you will also see more demand for positions in other areas such as nursing and technicians,” Turner said. “It ends up having a domino effect.”

Meeting demand

While health care providers increase their ranks, they face a competitive market for new recruits.

In Connecticut, the monthly unemployment rate in August ticked down one-tenth of a point to 4.3 percent. Nationwide, unemployment is running at 3.9 percent, a near-record low since December 2000.

To tackle the lack of supply, area hospitals have ramped up their recruitment and professional-development efforts.

Stamford Health runs a “Graduate: Engaged, Mastering & Succeeding” program to bring in new nurses with nursing degrees. The 12-week orientation initiative supports recent graduates by assigning them to medical or surgical units where they are overseen by experienced mentors.

Among its new initiatives, Yale New Haven Health piloted last year at Greenwich Hospital a 12-month operating room nurse residency program. The inaugural group of five nurses graduated in January, and the program is set to expand to the system’s other hospitals.

Some non-clinical positions, such as IT jobs, are also difficult to fill.

“IT professionals can work in so many industries, not just the medical field, so there are a lot of opportunities for them,” Guglielmo said. “It’s a tight market there.”

Retaining talented professionals also remains critical to hospitals’ HR strategies.

“We want people to be challenged, and, depending on work-life balance and professional interests, they may want to move out of their current area, but stay within our system, in a different location,” Turner said. “We’re very openly working with employees to meet their personal and professional interests.”

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; Twitter: @paulschott

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