"After several quarters of delayed expansions and in some cases layoffs, even of patient care staff, the last two quarters we saw slight improvement across the board, and in the last quarter we have seen some healthy improvement across many areas," he says.
Cherner says many of the cutbacks and project delays during 2009 were a response to the economic unease about deteriorating financial conditions.
"But as a result of the belt tightening, we are also seeing many institutions reporting better-than-expected results over the last couple of quarters," he says. "Anecdotally, I've heard from a number of hospitals that they may have overreacted in terms of staff reductions and they are now trying to put stuff back on track."
Cherner's take on all of this strikes me as a fair assessment of the prospects for hospital job growth in 2010. It only makes sense that hospitals would cut back on labor costs in the face of tanking investment portfolios, adverse patient mixes, and other attacks on the bottom line.
But, it also appears that many hospitals have taken the last few months to assess their financial situations, as many investment markets have rebounded, and reassess their strategic visions.
All of this is occurring as Congress cobbles together reforms that could make health insurance available to another 30 million people, and as our nation's population—now at 308 million—gets older, fatter, and sicker.
Predictions are just that. But there is one thing you can bank on in healthcare, even when everything else is in flux. The demand will always be there.