Health care job fair next week

The Colorado Hospital Association and the National Healthcare Career Network will host a career fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 28 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 743 Horizon Drive.

Kellie Bonthron, employment-communications specialist for the Colorado Hospital Association, said the career fair will be a small event designed to connect home health, nursing and allied health professionals with six or more employers who are expected to have booths at the hotel. Colorado Christian University and Grand Canyon University representatives will have booths, too, at the Connect with Success: Healthcare Career Fair & Education Event to discuss their advanced, online, health care-degree programs.

Bonthron said the association hosted its first career fairs last year in Denver and Pueblo to encourage more face-to-face communication between employers and job-seekers. The association decided to come to Grand Junction to highlight jobs on the Western Slope.

“There haven’t been many career events because of the economy, and the ones out there aren’t usually health care-specific,” Bonthron said.

The health care industry has weathered the economic storm better than some other industries. Health care job postings were among the most plentiful Mesa County Workforce Center job postings through the recession. Hospitals, ambulatory health care services, and nursing and residential care facilities had the second, fourth, and ninth-highest employment figures among the top 10 industries by employment in Colorado in 2010, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Although Colorado hospital employment grew 8.2 percent year-over-year in 2010, Bonthron said hospitals and other health care facilities rarely hire graduates directly out of college anymore. Nurses with more experience usually get jobs first, and they were less likely to retire in recent years than they would have in more certain economic times, she said. Bonthron said the Colorado Hospital Association in part decided to host fairs around the state to encourage health care facilities to hire newer workers.

“A lot of these nursing students fresh out of school are a little bit frustrated, but this is a good way to get in front of recruiters, and it tells recruiters they need to do something for new grads,” she said.

Community Hospital Human Resources Director Laurie Sinner said some newer health care professionals have had a tougher time finding work because turnover slowed in recent years at the hospital. In 2007, the hospital had an overall turnover rate of nearly 20 percent. That decreased to about 12 percent in 2011, according to Sinner.

Pay increases declined as well at the hospital, from 12 to 15 percent annual raises a few years ago to mostly flat salaries now, Sinner said. But pay still averages $24 an hour for Community Hospital employees, she said.

That pay has helped make the health care field an appealing career option. But Sinner said she has the ability to be pickier in times of lower turnover.

“I used to hire people at the job fairs. I doubt I will do that this time,” she said.

Sinner will seek physical therapists, coders for the health-records system and a few other positions at the fair. Other confirmed attendees include Rocky Mountain Health Plans, Family Health West and Volunteers of America.

St. Mary’s Hospital will not be among the attendees at next week’s career fair, but the hospital is hiring. St. Mary’s Human Resource Manager Holli Broyles said her turnover rate has remained about the same during the past few years. Only in the past six months has she been able to increase hiring to bring on an average of 20 to 30 people a month to fill vacancies and the occasional new position, mostly in specialized services. Broyles said that increase is likely due to an improving economy.

“As the economy gets a little better, I see people getting a little more comfortable hiring,” she said.


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