Woodland Park, Springs compete for medical staff

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Two groups recruiting medical personnel to staff new hospitals in Woodland Park and Colorado Springs are facing the challenge of competing against one another for a limited labor pool.
Administrators at the Pikes Peak Regional Medical Center Association and Memorial Hospital estimate that they need a total of about 450 nurses, technicians, clinicians and administrators.
“There’s a method to the madness,” said Ellen Frohardt, employment manager of the human resources department at Memorial. “We determine how many people we need based on the number of beds.”
Memorial’s new hospital will have 89 beds in the first phase. The Woodland Park hospital is smaller, with 15 beds. Both will open in 2007.
Each organization has started accepting applications and both are launching nationwide recruiting efforts, possibly targeting the same potential employees.
“I think you’d have to acknowledge that’s the case,” said Bob Harvey, executive director of the association that is building the Woodland Park hospital. “We’ll have to pay comparable salaries and benefits. But there are little reasons that people might want to gravitate toward the different hospitals. Some people prefer working at larger facilities; some prefer smaller facilities.”
Harvey said the smaller hospital is working on partnerships with Memorial and Penrose hospitals. And, he said, the Woodland Park group is not going to recruit specialty physicians.
“We won’t be looking for those very highly skilled, highly specialized doctors,” he said. “But we will all be looking at the same pool of nurses.”
Woodland Park will need about 150 employees, while Memorial is seeking to hire nearly 300. The majority of the new hires will be nurses, a profession in great demand in the state.
Colorado is experiencing a nursing shortage, but that shortage is less keenly felt in the Springs, said Joy Powell, administrator for Memorial Hospital North. Memorial expects to hire about 150 nurses for the hospital.
“We’ve already started the process,” she said. “And we’re entering the hiring process thoughtfully, carefully. We’re exploring all our options, thinking of new ways to recruit people. In most instances, we will hire for attitude and train for skill. We’re definitely looking for a willingness to learn, a willingness to fit into the culture at Memorial.”
While Harvey said his association already has at least one application for every position the hospital will need on opening day, Memorial is just starting its recruitment push. The hospital has not ruled out hiring foreign nurses.
“We’re pushing people to the Web site, and trying to direct recruiting that way,” Frohardt said. “We have huge efforts to advertise nationally, in specialty magazines and niche sites. We definitely have talked about hiring outside the country, but that’s very expensive. It’s an option that we’ll keep open, however.”
Powell said the hospital administration is considering hiring retired nurses and is considering four and eight-hour shifts, in addition to more traditional 12-hour shifts, in order to attract more employees
“If we can restructure the hours, for a mother who might have left the field to stay home with the kids, then we can rehire that person,” she said. “We’re going to look at all resources and tap into all markets that maybe we haven’t thought about.”
Employees get a bonus if they refer someone for an open position, and Memorial employees are eligible to apply for positions at the new hospital.
“We are partnering with several schools,” Powell said. “We’ve had 600 students come through for rotations during class, it’s a huge partnership. Altogether, we partner with 14 schools.”
Memorial also has created its own temp agency, M-Staff.
“It’s an internal pool of employees that allow people to be part of Memorial without adhering to a specific schedule or shift work,” Frohardt said. “We were using an outside company, but we developed our own internal agencies to attract more people to Memorial, so that’s another potential source for employees, some people who might want to move into full or part-time positions.”
Both organizations expect challenges in finding employees. Penrose is also planning a new building, but officials there say they are moving operations and plan to transition current employees.
Harvey said the Woodland Park hospital is hiring a management group to handle recruiting, hiring and daily operations. He said the lure of the Pikes Peak region should provide enough job candidates for Woodland Park and Colorado Springs.
“The combination of the mountains and the wage scales make it a great place to recruit,” he said. “We get a lot of good exposure from people – tourists, the military. People want to live here, the weather’s great, and it’s beautiful.”