The health sector accounts for nearly one-fifth of the US economy, making it a sizable element of American commerce. Given the size of the overall industry and its importance, there is a significant amount of spillover between public and private employment in the sector. Currently, demand for federal healthcare workers is quite strong, according to Charles Broom, president and CEO of RieLes Group, a solutions service company in Atlanta, GA, that focuses on supplying contract employees to government facilities.
Feeling the “Silver Tsunami”
“There has been a ‘silver tsunami’ underway, which describes the massive exodus of people retiring from the healthcare industry,” says Charles. “The COVID-19 pandemic expedited that trend, especially for front-line employees. It put a lot of things into perspective. As a result, there haven’t been enough people going into the healthcare field to replace those who have either retired or changed careers.”
Companies like RieLes help satisfy the current need by supplying contract employees for federal and military treatment facilities. “The incentive for the government to use companies like ours is that they don’t have to carry that overhead. It allows them access to larger talent pools and reduces project wait times while limiting the size of government” Charles notes. “A typical hospital will carry the cost of paying a full-time employee’s health benefits, insurance, and liabilities. Most of the people working at these facilities are working for other companies like us. We cover the cost of their benefits, their 401(k), and other expenses.”
Public Versus Private Healthcare Jobs
Charles makes a distinction between public and private sector healthcare jobs, with both having pros and cons. Nearly 80% of all people working in healthcare work in the private sector. These people work at local and regional hospitals and clinics. The public side of the equation attracts workers who work at government-funded general hospitals, VA medical centers, and military hospitals. “They seek greater stability and better quality of life, says Charles. “For example, working for the government means more stability since most facilities are open Monday through Friday, with regular hours, and they observe all federal holidays. That means something to someone looking for a better quality of life since the typical private-sector hospital in your community is open 24/7.”
Charles mentions another reason some workers gravitate toward government healthcare positions. “Those with spouses in the military can often ‘follow’ them by working at a federal agency or military treatment facility,” says Charles. “Pay is competitive, facilities are typically located close to bases, and positions are open because there is a need.”
From Physicians to Administrative Support
RieLes employees are working as physicians, nurses, and ancillary technicians such as polysomnographic “sleep” technicians, in addition to administrative support – a variety of positions. “They include any position required to run a healthcare facility – any position the government might outsource,” Charles notes.
While job candidates require the requisite credentials in their chosen fields, a few can find career opportunities based on their military work experience as well. “There are some cases where if you’re retired military and you may not have gone to a traditional school, your work experience may substitute for a college degree. For example, in an administrative, IT, and sociology position you may have three to five years of work experience, and it may be substituted for a four-year bachelor’s degree [subject to certain roles and the agency]. Those transferable skills could allow them to have employment opportunities.” About 50% of federal employees don’t have college degrees. The more education and experience you have makes you more competitive against other applicants.
Charles says former military people are highly sought after. “Easily 60% of our employees are retired military. They understand the ‘cadence’ of working at a government facility, which is different from working in the private sector. In the military, for example, there is a specific structure and chain of command. There’s also typically not the same level of duty and honor or sense of ‘giving back’ in the private sector. For a lot of people, it’s hard to let go of that culture.”
Demand for federal healthcare workers will likely remain strong in the coming years, and companies like RieLes Group are ready, willing, and able to fill the need.