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LI hospitals target millennial workers to prepare for aging population

Nurse Bernadette DeCarlo, 30, of Hauppauge, works in

Nurse Bernadette DeCarlo, 30, of Hauppauge, works in the cardiac catherization lab at Stony Brook University Heart Institute on Aug. 9.  Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Local health care employers are focusing their recruitment efforts on millennials to prepare for the double-whammy effect of Long Island's aging population: As baby boomers age out of their health care jobs, they will begin to need more health care themselves. 

The growing ranks of younger workers are already apparent. Some 55,000 Long Island millennials work in health care, comprising one fifth  of the region’s health care workforce, U.S. census data show.

In 2017, millennials for the first time became the largest demographic in the health care workforce on Long Island — 23 percent,  U.S. census data show.

Health care is the No. 1 employer on Long Island for millennials, with 21.3 percent of ages 25 to 34 in the field in 2018. That’s up from 19.2 percent of millennials in 2014, census data show.

“For millennials on Long Island, a lot of the new jobs are in health care,” said Gregory DeFritas, an economist researching Long Island employment at Hofstra University.

About 40 percent of employees at Northwell Health, Long Island’s largest private  employer, are millennials, said Judy Howard, vice president of talent acquisition at Northwell Health. She said she expects the number to reach 50 percent by 2022.

“Beginning in 2011, we started seeing a rapid need for new hires as baby boomers aged," Howard said. "That trend is projected to last for at least the next 14 years.”

Long Island millennial health care employment has grown faster than millennial health care employment in the state and the nation, census numbers reveal, as hospitals here target young workers to prepare for the oncoming increase in demand, recruiters said. It's an intentional strategy, Howard and other employers said.

“Here on Long Island, there is a larger population of aging individuals. Hospitals have that in mind,” said Janine Logan of the Long Island Association of Hospitals, which represents 23 hospitals in the area.

Long Island's population has aged faster than the rest of the nation's. There are 26 retirement-age Long Islanders for every 100 working-age Long Islanders. That compares to 24 for every 100, on average, in the country in 2017, U.S. census data show. 

“Long Island is more of an aging suburb than the average suburb,” said DeFritas, who noted that aging Long Islanders  monopolize the local housing markets, as rising home  prices have made housing  opportunities for young people increasingly scarce on the Island.

To support retirees' needs, “health care organizations are competing for a limited supply of talent,” said Colette C. Brown, chief human resources officer at Stony Brook University Hospital.

One of their recruitment methods is offering competitive salaries. Census data show that while millennial health care workers  in the United States make an average of $41,170, Long Island workers receive an average of $51,216. In New York State, the average  is $47,004.

Recruiters make use of up-to-date technology and social media advertising to draw job applicants, said Taylor Andrews, a nurse manager in Stony Brook’s bone marrow transplant unit.

Christina Burns, 32, a scrub nurse at Stony Brook Hospital said she receives five to six recruitment messages a day from hospitals trying to hire her away from the hospital's cardiac surgery operating room.   

While salary, as well as continuing education, career development opportunities and other job perks are important to Long Island millennials, some cite job security as the main attraction of health care jobs.

“I think my peers are looking for jobs with security so they would not get laid off, like during the recession. The medical field will always be there,” said Emily Fudim,  24,  a health administrator from Babylon working for both Northwell Health and Catholic Health Services.

She also cited the attraction of performing meaningful work that helps others, something research shows is of high importance to millennials.

“I realized pretty quickly that to show up for a job every day, I need to be helping people,” said Fudim.

Long Island hospitals have even begun recruiting at the high school level, with health care programs and internships. In a Northwell poll of high school students, 45 percent indicated an interest in joining the health care industry, said Howard.

“We’re building pipelines very early on,” she said.

High college tuition costs may also drive millennials to health care, a field where many jobs are accessible with a two-year associate degree,  said DeFritas. 

“With the high cost of college, it’s more practical to get a job in health care,” said Bernadette DeCarlo, 30, a Stony Brook registered nurse from Hauppauge who received continuing-education tuition reimbursement from her employer.

 The accessibility and growth of the field has made health care an attractive choice for young minorities, said DeFritas.

On Long Island, total health care  job growth among minorities is at 18.53 percent, whereas among white Long Islanders, health care jobs have grown 7 percent since 2014, census data show.

Minority health care job growth has been seen around the country, but Long Island outpaces other areas. New York State minority health care jobs grew 17.07 percent, while U.S. minority health care jobs grew 15 percent since 2014.

Minorities represent 36.4 percent of health care workers on Long Island. Only 24.7 percent of Long Island jobs overall were held by nonwhite employees, 2017 census data show.

The health care pipeline seems to be missing 45- to 54-year-olds. Amid an overall average 11 percent job growth, they have lost health care jobs, data show.

 That's because the youngest of the large baby boomer generation are aging out of that range, said DeFritas. Over the past five years, the age group on Long Island has diminished more than 4 percent, according to census data. 

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