February 5, 2023

Health care industry struggles to fill record number of job openings

EUGENE, Ore. — The demand for health care workers is at an all-time high. From pediatricians to specialists, the record number of job openings is creating a problem for those looking to make appointments.

Kris Clark, the operations manager for Eugene Pediatric Associates, said one recruitment barrier seems to be child care.

“They either have youngsters who are unvaccinated, so they are concerned about putting them in a day care situation, and for those who have young children that may be vaccinated, they might still be in a hybrid school model, and so that creates a challenge for them to find child care and they are simply just not going back to work,” Clark said.

Clark said another barrier is the vaccine mandate.

“I’ve had some people inquire for positions here that have chosen to be not vaccinated,” Clark said.

According to the Oregon Employment Department, health care has consistently been the sector with the most job vacancies even before the pandemic. But over the past year and a half, the demand has only increased. There are about 15,000 open positions in the industry across the state right now.

Clark said they’ve had to open up more positions because of a rapid demand for their patients to be seen. They’re calling on all the help they can get.

“We’re looking at our schedules; we are looking at how we can flex schedules around people’s part-time needs instead,” Clark said.

She said as a practice, they’re urging people to reach out and talk about ways they can help people get back into the workforce.

Gail Krumenauer, a state employment economist, said it’s all about strategy right now when it comes to filling job vacancies, especially when it comes to health care positions.

“It’s not all about money sometimes; it’s about safety and things like that, all of the pairing of those things and looking at every corner. All of that layered together, I think, has been what has created more success for businesses,” Krumenauer said.

However, she said there’s hope. The health care industry has made significant progress recovering jobs lost in the early months of the pandemic. She encourages struggling employers not to give up hope just yet.

Krumenauer said they’ve added more jobs in the first months of 2021 than they have in any full year prior.

She said many of the state’s high-demand and high-wage jobs are found in the health care industry, but luckily, there’s easily-accessible training in Eugene.

Lane County Workforce services are now taking appointments for one-on-one help with health care job training. Appointments are available virtually, by phone, or in-person at the Eugene Public Library and WorkSource Lane.