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Health care workers 'are just completely burnt out,' ICON Medical Network CEO explains

ICON Medical Network CEO Janet Elkin joins Yahoo Finance Live’s Julie Hyman and Brian Sozzi to discuss the challenges hospitals are facing as labor shortages in the health care industry continue to rise.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: We were just talking about health care jobs as a part of all of the-- that the Labor Department looks at, and we want to bring back in Janet Elkin, CEO and President of the ICON Medical Network, after the economy added about 6,000 health care jobs last month, which does not seem like a high number. And so Janet, tell us what you are seeing in your business here in terms of being able to get workers on board.

JANET ELKIN: Shortages continue to be really at a critical stage. So the numbers don't really tell I think the full story. And of course, we all know about the shortage of nursing. It continues to escalate but also physicians as well. How many of them are retiring earlier than they would have at a time when we really need them most? They're just completely burnt out.

As much as we talk about some surgeries being postponed or elective surgeries are being canceled, but there are more surgeries than ever I believe happening now because of pent-up demand. We don't have enough anesthesiologists or CRNAs that are in my Independence division. It is just critical across the board. And as the Labor Secretary said, the crisis for mental health, it's taking its toll because we don't have nearly enough psychiatrists.

BRIAN SOZZI: And Janet, really the shortage is impacting, of course, many parts of health care but nursing in particular. Are you seeing hospitals begin to tap a pool of international nurses and get them over here to help address these issues?

JANET ELKIN: Well, they are. They're trying to get over here as much as possible. Obviously, there's issues with that too, right, in a pandemic. They're basically trying anything they can. Retired nurses, nurses that maybe wouldn't have been considered earlier on to do temporary work but now are being brought on, even if they're not that experienced because they just frankly need the help.

JULIE HYMAN: And talk to us a little bit more about-- a little more color about why people-- like what exactly is happening, when you say people are burnt out, are people quitting or is there a very little pipeline also of new people coming in? Talk to me about what that departure from the workforce looks like.

JANET ELKIN: Well, it's stunning actually. You've got a combination of factors if you look at the fact that the average age of a nurse is 48 and it takes a while, we don't have enough nursing schools, we don't have enough professors, they can't just obviously in a hurry get out there, and then doctors even more so. So there just simply aren't enough. And as much as we talk about the vaccine mandates, there's the other side of that, that there are physicians and nurses that are just-- they're so burned out by what didn't have to happen for the folks that are in critical care that they're leaving as well or they want more of a work-life balance because they've just had enough.

BRIAN SOZZI: And as we learned in today's jobs report among many things, wages continue to be on a rise. What are some of the compensation packages looking like right now if you're a nurse or work elsewhere-- work in the space?

JANET ELKIN: I mean, we're seeing sign-on bonuses the likes of which we've never seen before. And I think finally we're starting to see a difference in terms of understanding that this generation doesn't want the same-- no matter what they pay them-- it's not just about compensation, they also want to have some real time off. They don't want to have to go from a night to a day shift back and forth because they have families to consider as well.

JULIE HYMAN: And Janet, finally I want to bring up something else I was just talking to the Secretary about, and that's vaccination mandates. I'm curious if you guys have a mandate, and are people even in the medical community are people resistant to that?

JANET ELKIN: Well, we don't see it very often with physicians. We do occasionally see it with nurses. As a temporary agency, we don't have a mandate but the hospitals do. So it's getting much more difficult for these folks to find a place to land. I actually have a mandate in my company for my employees, and we're mainly remote because I feel that if you're in health care, you should be vaccinated.

JULIE HYMAN: Makes sense. Seems to make sense, doesn't it? But unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Janet Elkin, great to catch up with you today. Thank you so much for your insight. CEO and President of the ICON Medical Network.