VHA nearly doubles goal to onboard health care workers during ‘surge’ event

The Veterans Health Administration, eager to hire the in-demand health care workforce, is speeding up the process of bringing potential recruits onboard.

VHA completed all phases of onboarding for more than 12,800 new employees through a national onboarding surge event last week – nearly double its target.

Sharif Alnahal, the undersecretary for health, said in an interview that it would take several additional months for the VHA to get a final count of how many potential employees…

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The Veterans Health Administration, eager to hire the in-demand health care workforce, is speeding up the process of bringing potential recruits onboard.

VHA completed all phases of onboarding for more than 12,800 new employees through a national onboarding surge event last week – nearly double its target.

Sharif Elnahal, the undersecretary for health, said in an interview that it would take several additional months for the VHA to get a final number on how many potential workers would accept final job offers from the agency.

“My first priority is to recruit faster and more competitively, because I know we need as many people as possible. he said.

Many applicants who received initial offers from VHA also received multiple competing job offers from private health care providers.

“We hope and expect that most of them will accept employment, but we won’t know until they finally accept and come to a start date,” Elnahal said in an interview on Wednesday. “Oftentimes, people can hold onto job offers until the very last day, so we won’t know until months to come, especially when the holidays are upon us.”

By taking a “one-stop-shop” approach to completing all onboarding steps at once during the growth event, VHA hopes to minimize the dropoff in potential hires who do not accept final job offers.

VHA onboarded an expanding number of employees, many of them to fill vacancies for human resources specialists, front-line physicians, and positions that support clinical work.

“We need to hire people who are capable of bringing key people into the field, fronted by veterans,” Elnahal said. “Really, that’s a long list of people that we need, because of how every health care system is, frankly, struggling to have people.”

Elnahal said the VHA’s average time-to-rent is currently about 200 days before a vacancy occurs. The agency spends about half the time interviewing candidates and assessing their qualifications before making an initial offer. The rest of the time is focused on the onboarding steps – including fingerprinting, background checks and drug tests – before a candidate actually begins working at VHA.

“Unfortunately, that onboarding phase takes us a lot longer than our competitors. We really need to do our best to shorten that time frame, get people to those steps more efficiently,” Elnahal said.

The VHA expected to complete the onboarding phases for about 6,500 prospects, nearly double its goal.

The agency is looking to bring on more health care workers in anticipation of a major expansion of VA health care under the PACT Act. The VA begins adjudicating those health care and benefits claims at the beginning of the new year.

“Veterans, at the end of the day, need the full complement of staff at every facility and medical center we have, and this effort is primarily designed to be able to inject so many people into every site of care. What we have was done, ”Elnahal said.

Elnahal said many potential employees who have gone through the onboarding event have wanted to serve veterans for years but had difficulty entering the VA system.

“We’re really trying to break down those barriers as much as possible,” he said.

Nationwide Onboarding rapidly enhances candidate onboarding experiences by coordinating all required pre-employment tasks in a one-day event at facilities across the country.

“A lot of these activities depend on facilities having the time and resources to get people to confirm. So what we said is, as much as possible, if you want to offer a one-stop shop for a facility and network For potential employees to come in and do several of those steps at once, we’ll be able to speed it up. And we proved that to be true in just a few weeks,” Elnahal said.

Elnahl said the onboarding event has improved relationships between network-level human resources specialists, many of whom work virtually, with facility-level medical center leadership and hiring executives.

“In many cases, as a result of this event, people were meeting each other for the first time,” he said. “A number of lessons emerged from this Onboarding Surge event, which allowed us to shed light in each of our country networks on what we need to focus on more definitively in the medium to long term.”

Elnahal said the onboarding event also highlighted some of the hurdles in the standard onboarding process.

“Ideally, we want to get to a stage where we don’t need these kinds of escalation events because we’re able to efficiently identify and hire people,” Elnahal said. “Part of the problem is that we don’t have a standard implemented process for hiring that looks the same across every single network, and so that allows us to move toward standardization very quickly.”

Among opportunities to standardize hiring and onboarding, Elnahal said VHA is looking to reduce the number of “hand-offs” that occur throughout the process.

“Every time you introduce hands-on process, there is a risk that things fall through the cracks. What we need to do is, as we establish these standardized processes, reduce the amount of time and the number of instances where people have to delegate to someone else in HR. “At the very least, someone on the HR team should have an awareness of where these packages are and who has the next ball to move forward.”

The PACT Act gave the VA several tools, including new wage and bonus rights, to hire more quickly and more competitively.

“Right now, it’s up to us to be able to consistently enforce the use of those authorizations across every single network in the VHA, and that’s really what we’re focusing on in the coming months,” Elnahahl said.

Beyond onboarding, Elnahal said the PACT Act gives VHAs the tools they need to prioritize retention of health care workers.

“It’s really not just the money that keeps people in your system. In fact, it’s a supportive work environment around our employees that really does the trick in retention. I really think that retention is going to be the future of health care.” The differentiating factor for the systems will be whether they are able to be successful,” he said.

While the VHA is busy implementing the PACT Act, the VA, as part of its Fiscal 2023 budget request, is calling on Congress to approve higher salary caps for VA physicians, podiatrists and dentists.

Elnahal said the VHA wants to not only raise salaries, but also provide financial incentives “that are more creative and help encourage both quality patient safety and productivity.”

“A lot of people in Congress have reached out to us and said they’ve been helpful. We really hope to be able to get that, so that we can make sure, especially in rural areas, that we’re able to get those physicians who are being paid a lot to be able to go into those areas and provide care. demand. We really want to be there for our rural veterans. There is an issue across the country, including in urban areas, which will be a major valve and open up much needed capacity for veterans,” he said.

VHA is launching PACT Act Awareness Week on December 10, with events in all 50 states focused on helping veterans apply for benefits, understand their eligibility and undergo toxic exposure screening. The agency has completed over 250,000 screenings so far in the last few weeks.

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