What the Shortage of Mental Health Professionals Means for Hiring

Matt Brewster

The demand for psychiatric nurse practitioners and physician assistants is at an all-time high, and the latest data shows that we will not be able to staff up enough to meet the demand in the coming years. With the CDC suggesting 40% of Americans struggle with addiction or anxiety, particularly during COVID, the numbers are concerning. How will the shortage of mental health professionals affect hiring in the coming years?

Overcoming Worker Shortages in the Mental Health Field

It’s the perfect storm. At the same time, as we’re seeing a growing increase in the number of people with mental health conditions, there is also a shortage of workers. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, where the number of providers in all specialty areas tends to run thin consistently. Medical professionals tend to cluster in more urban areas, where, in many cases, the salary, benefits, and opportunities are higher.

Mental healthcare organizations are working to increase the number of providers. Many medical schools are increasing their specialty psychiatric training programs. The industry is also looking for creative ways to extend the mental health workforce by using telemedicine to increase their efficiency. The federal government is also working to fund new types of programs to promote entry into the field.

All of these programs are useful but will take time to produce more professional NPs and PAs with the kind of psychiatric training they’ll need to make a dent in the problem. But what do these shortages mean right now for recruiting qualified mental health professionals?

Staffing Up for Mental Health

The current provider shortages only serve to highlight the increasing need for staffing agencies specializing in healthcare recruiting. The automation they bring to streamline efficiencies along with healthcare networks built from years of steady, consistent work is something that many healthcare organizations lack. Attracting skilled mental and behavioral health talent is not a one-off; this work takes years to build pipelines and candidate connections that follow people for years.

The days of “posting and praying” to fill positions are long gone in the healthcare field. Typically, firms like MedSource begin with a list of characteristics that key employers look for in these professionals. Extensive research yields a list of targeted candidates that the staffing firm can proactively work to cultivate.

Marketing the position you’re hiring for is a job in itself. For healthcare organizations, it takes a combined effort between marketing and recruiting to elevate the organization as an employer of choice. But this effort is critical because every candidate is highly competed for by many of your peers.

Recruitment and staffing firms know this work well. The majority of our effort focuses on relationship cultivation, not passive advertising. To alleviate the hiring shortage in the mental health field, organizations must take a page from agencies like MedSource Consultants and target passive candidates and build their hiring networks. If your healthcare organization is struggling in this area, perhaps it’s time to start the conversation.