Prepare for a layoff in healthcare

Is your healthcare job in jeopardy? Look for these warning signs, and learn how you can rebound quickly.

Prepare for a layoff in healthcare

While the healthcare job market is relatively healthy, the industry is not immune to layoffs. Some healthcare workers still lose their jobs every month, and for them, the much-hyped hot job market is cold comfort. Anticipating and preparing for a possible layoff can lessen the blow and help you rebound quickly if you do get a pink slip.

Recognize the Warning Signs

A hospital is forced to lay off staff if the institution is struggling financially. Hospitals that slash supply budgets or leave positions vacant rather than replacing workers may be in financial trouble, says Patricia Yoder-Wise, RN, EdD, a professor in the School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Another way to anticipate future layoffs is to study your competitors, Yoder-Wise says. If a competing organization introduces a new service that cuts into your facility's business, your hospital could be forced to tighten its belt. Organizations involved in mergers or dealing with a new round of reimbursement cuts could also be gearing up for layoffs, says John Izzo, a healthcare consultant and author with offices in Vancouver and San Diego.

Understand Where You Fit

Bedside nurses and other direct-care clinicians may be slightly less prone to layoffs than managers, training and development specialists and other hands-off health-industry professionals, Izzo says. The need for front-line healthcare workers continues to increase as our aging population demands more healthcare services; however, cost pressures on hospitals and health systems are also accelerating. This leaves some organizations little choice but to eliminate nonessential positions.

Cancel the Pity Party

If you think your job may be in danger, don't give in to complaining and negativity, Izzo says. Some managers may be at liberty to honestly discuss the potential for layoffs, so instead of assuming the worst, attempt to get the facts. If you work for an organization where people won't be laid off according to seniority, work extra hard to demonstrate your value and flexibility to the organization, he advises.

Prepare

Don't wait until you're jobless to update your resume and CV, Yoder-Wise says. Network with others in your specialty, and proactively check job postings to get a feel for what's available.

Yoder-Wise also recommends diversifying so that you have a primary specialty area but are employable in a more general capacity as well. "If you are at risk of getting laid off but want to stay in the same facility, it helps to have talent in another area at your fingertips," she says. "You can be the first in line to get transferred to another area."

Don't Take It Personally

If the ax does fall, don't become bitter. The layoff is probably due to factors beyond your control, Yoder-Wise says.

Izzo advises taking care of yourself. Talk to your loved ones about your feelings and write down your thoughts and ideas. "Don't let fear overwhelm you," he says. "In reality, there are a lot of jobs out there in healthcare."

Make a Comeback

You're going to find another job, Izzo says, but you should focus on finding the right job with the right organization. If you can afford it, consider taking a month off to think about what you want to do next. You may also want to research and focus on employers with histories of financial success and few layoffs.

Jobs are generally plentiful for front-line healthcare workers, although you may not get your first choice of hospital, shift or specialty area, Yoder-Wise says.

Izzo agrees. "In the big scheme of things, healthcare is pretty recession-proof and is more stable than most businesses," he says. "That is still true, although there are layoffs and challenges, like all industries."

Learn more about healthcare careers.