Features

Jim Marco – Glens Falls Hospital

A finger on the pulse of all matters personnel

The geographic splendor of upstate New York has its selling points, but that alone isn’t enough to attract quality employees to one of its major hospitals. On the healthcare front, it’s an applicant’s market.

So emphasizes Jim Marco, who in January 2021 undertook a major role in recruiting and retaining the workforce at Glens Falls Hospital. Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurses’ aides, imaging professionals, surgical technologists, support staff of all kinds—they’re all in short supply.

Nevertheless, he says his employer has been coming out ahead in this high-stakes competition, hiring around 40 more personnel than it’s lost through recent attrition.

“We just have our finger on the pulse of what’s happening,” Marco tells Vision in March. “Yes, there is a skilled-labor shortage, but we’re overcoming it.”

A dashing dozen

Marco and his department of 12 use a new dashboard to identify the most effective means for recruiting young and veteran talent. Job and school fairs have rendered good results, he says, as have social media and old-fashioned advertising, such as help-wanted messages on billboards.

When a qualified candidate responds, someone on his team ensures the resume is shown to a hiring manager within 24 hours. There’s prompt post-interview follow-up and, once the hiring manager decides, a job offer is made.

Compensation is always an issue, Marco says, so with input the human resources team gleaned from the dashboard, the executive team has created a higher pay scale and has added bonuses and other incentives, he says.

“The fascinating and unique thing about healthcare is that everybody talks about the pay, but with often tight finances, it’s difficult to provide large pay increases,” Marco says. When we put a new pay structure together last year, so many of our problems went away. We’ve backfilled positions and gotten up to speed.”

It’s still a matter that’ll need constant rethinking, though, because there’s still a shortage of young people pursuing a career in healthcare. It’s had Glens Falls Hospital, as well as others healthcare providers, looking as far away as the Philippines, which is a wellspring for many skilled positions.

“The stress and burnout is heavy, especially in the intensive care unit,” he says. “It’s hard on staffers when they see more patients dying than before. Everyone’s hoping that the worst of COVID is over, but we’re still seeing surges.”

Rules and regs

In addition to managing hiring and retention processes, Marco is partnering with the legal team to comply with what he describes as a mountain of regulations.

There’s a lot of overlap, he says, with state and federal rules. New York’s Paid Family Leave, for instance, allows employees 12 weeks off to care for kin while the federal Family and Medical Leave Act only grants leave to tend to a parent, spouse or child. With short-term temporary help difficult to find, the hospital often must revamp scheduling to protect the jobs of the multiple staffers on leave at any given time.

“I’m not judging the law one way or the other, but it’s a burden on a business to keep a job open when work needs to be done,” Marco says. “Laws can overlap and not concurrently. We’ve got to stay abreast of new regulations.”

But he’s glad to do so and be back in healthcare HR after logging over 17 years as president and principal consultant with Saratoga Human Resources Solutions Inc., which oversees personnel issues on behalf of corporate clientele. This, he says, stands to be his most rewarding role.

A healer on and off job

Prior to SHRS, Marco served stints in HR capacities with three healthcare providers in upstate New York. He found those roles more satisfying than corporate jobs he held after graduating from the State University of New York College at Potsdam in 1984. His mother and sister are nurses and he, too, had a calling for healthcare.

He’s followed it, indirectly and directly, including while aiding seriously injured people as an EMT in Malta, New York, and as member of the National Ski Patrol at Gore Mountain.

Marco still gets emotional while describing how one long-ago December he was team captain among responders to a head-on accident. A young mother was pinned in a totaled car, bleeding and without pulse until firefighters cut her out of the wreckage. The EMTs resuscitated her with an IV and anti-shock trousers, and she survived the ordeal after extensive hospitalization and rehab.

“When my kids were young, they asked me, ‘Dad, why did you want to be an EMT?’ and I told them that story,” he says. “Because of the response of my team, a husband didn’t lose his wife and little children didn’t lose their mother right before Christmas.”

More recently he aided a skier who ruptured his spleen. A stickler for ski safety, he advises all downhillers to wear a helmet and to not get too reckless on often icy slopes.

And back in the office, Marco uses the dashboard and his interactions with other departments to learn what issues may lie ahead. As important as data is, he says it can constrain an organization if it doesn’t know which questions to ask. A healthy corporate culture and foundational understanding of the workforce are indispensable, he says, especially with so many opportunities elsewhere.

“We’ve been able to meet so many of these challenges in the past year,” Marco says. “It’s personally been a very rewarding experience.”

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