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Taking different approaches to recruiting and retaining workers

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Alison Mincey of the University of Miami Health System talks about strategies to improve staffing and encourage talent to stick around.

It’s critical for health systems to think about different ways of working, Alison Mincey says.

Mincey is senior vice president and chief human resources officer of The University of Miami, UHealth, the university’s health system, and The Miller School of Medicine. Since going to Miami two years ago, she’s been focusing heavily on recruiting and retention.

“We have a workforce that is asking for us to think about things differently,” Mincey says. “And that includes making sure that they're appropriately staffed.”

In a conversation with Chief Healthcare Executive®, Mincey talks about the strategies to bring people to the University of Miami and UHealth, and to get them to stay. She talks about helping efforts to reduce burnout and offer more flexibility to keep talented workers. (See part of our conversation in this video. The story continues below.)

Mincey says the university health system is focusing on making sure there is adequate staffing to reduce stress on workers and encourage them to stick around. While Miami encourages workers to take breaks, and offers a fitness facility to give staff a chance to get rid of some stress, Mincey says workers need to have support on the job, and that’s going to reduce burnout among clinicians.

“I think one of the key components that was really highlighted by the pandemic, is really how staffing and day-to-day staffing, including looking at your ratios, ensuring that you're appropriately staffed, depending upon unit, was really what the healthcare workforce was asking us to think differently about,” Mincey says.

The University of Miami has built much of its retention strategy around allowing staff to work in different ways, Mincey says.

Nurses who want to work but aren’t interested in full-time positions can go per diem, and the organization has a number of nurses taking that option, Mincey says. While there must be a balance to make sure there’s enough staff, Mincey says the per diem option is attractive for some workers.

“We do right now have a lot of flexibility in that program in terms of when and how much a clinician can work,” she says.

Part of that strategy involved tapping into some travel nurses who came to Miami and persuading them to move into permanent roles at UHealth, Mincey says. Some nurses left bedside roles in the Northeast and took positions as travel nurses to Florida, and the university aimed to take advantage of that pipeline of talent.

Florida, with a population of 22.6 million, is seeing rapid growth. The Sunshine State has added a million residents since 2020, according to July 2023 estimates from the Census Bureau. And Miami remains a draw for many, Mincey says.

While Miami offers enticing possibilities for recreation and culture, housing prices are higher than other parts of the country, a factor that can be a challenge in recruiting clinicians from other areas. However, Mincey notes an upside financially, since Florida has no state income tax.

UHealth also established a student loan repayment program as another incentive to draw and keep staff. The university contributes a monthly amount toward student loan debt.

“We’ve got thousands of participants in that program,” Mincey says.

The program is appealing for clinicians carrying heavy debt, and also another incentive to attract those looking at the University of Miami.

“It’s going to promote recruiting for sure,” Mincey says. “But our goal is to hire the right people and have them stay and grow their careers with us. And so that's why we looked at that.”

In another recruiting tool, the university has also adopted a program giving employees bonuses for referring new employees. Mincey says it’s been “one of our most successful programs.” In about 18 months, the organization has awarded 1,000 bonuses, she said.

“That's a simple thing that we have been able to use to benefit our workforce and to benefit our recruitment pipeline,” Mincey says.

UHealth is also working to show appreciation for staff, and part of that of course is through compensation, she says. Mincey also stresses the importance of recognizing employees for their work as an important component of staff retention. Employees want to be noticed for their good work, she says.

“One of the things that came out across the University of Miami, both clinical providers and scientist staff, is making sure that they're recognized for their individual contributions is now more important than ever,” Mincey says.

“And that includes both monetarily, but that also includes recognition of the work that people are doing on an individualized basis to their peers into our community,” she says. “So we've created some programming, and we're actually going to focus more on that this upcoming year.”

Hospitals, large and small, can take a step toward retaining good people with strong recognition programs, Mincey says.

“We all like to be recognized for our performance,” Mincey says. “I think that's equally as important in any employment category that you're looking at, irrespective of size.”

Health systems and hospitals need to communicate with their employees and hear what they have to say.

“For us, just a key critical strategy is to make sure that we're listening, that we've got opportunity for that connection,” Mincey says. “Rounding continues to be something that is really important for that one-on-one connection.”

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