Local group working to help fill medical talent gap | Opinion

From the Tallahassee Democrat

If you’ve been to a restaurant or retail outlet, you know about the current talent gap.

Some eateries are closed for lunch or are only seating half the dining area, because that’s all the cooks or servers they can find to work. The same is true of other retail establishments.

It’s an important issue, given that these businesses are so vital to the fabric of life in Tallahassee.

But there is another business segment with a talent gap where the stakes are even higher.

What if I told you that there were 874 current openings in the following medical segments in Leon County: certified medical assistants, certified nursing assistants, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and patient care technicians? It’s true, according to a survey conducted by the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

What if I told you that the 15 medical organizations – including both hospitals – anticipate another 1,057 openings over the next 12 months?

Our amazing hospitals and medical organizations are doing everything possible to cover those gaps, but let’s be honest – those positions wouldn’t exist if they weren’t needed. It will be flu season soon enough and there is plenty of volatility and uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s why the work of the Talent Pipeline Management, a local group following a program developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is so vital in Tallahassee.

The TPM program is a local collaborative of health care provider representatives from our hospitals, physician practices, long-term care facilities and the like. It is open to anyone who wants to help fill the medical talent gap.

The group started meeting last fall and right now is collecting data, such as:

  • Shared pain points across the group (the positions they selected as most critical)
  • How many they currently need and projected over the next 12 months
  • What competencies and credentials they require/desire
  • Where they currently get their best employees
  • What education/training is currently available

The group is also working with education providers such as Lively, Keiser and Tallahassee Community College to align courses with their needs, ensure there are enough courses available to meet the current and future needs, and finally, recruit workers into the programs to ensure they are at capacity.

The issues of talent and jobs is key to our community’s future, including the chronic problems of crime and poverty.

According the Florida Chamber, Florida currently has more jobs looking for people than people actively looking for jobs. There are 503,000 unemployed Floridians and 512,900 advertised job openings. It’s one of the reasons the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce has launched its “JobsNow” initiative.

TPM is a terrific start, but the issue of retaining talent and creating incentives for people to re-enter the workforce is key to keeping our community healthy.

It’s one thing not to have a go-to option for lunch, but it’s another thing to need medical care and enter a health care system that is understaffed.

Tom Harrison, a Tallahassee native, has been the CEO of Tallahassee Primary Care Associates for 22 years.