At one time Andy Jacobs considered entering the police force, but the current vice president at Concentric Healthcare Staffing happily surrendered to his strong and successful acumen and natural talent for sales and staffing. Now, this busy father of two finds himself at the helm of one of the largest, leading nursing and allied health staffing companies for the Valley and Tucson. AZ Business Leaders sits down with Jacobs to learn more about the current and future healthcare trends, healthcare staffing trends, and what we can expect from a new generation of nurses.

“In Concentric’s initial years, our focus was nurse staffing and behavioral health,” says Andy Jacobs, vice president at Concentric Healthcare Staffing. “Since then, we have greatly diversified our offerings to include laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, administrative in healthcare, occupational therapies, respiratory care and more. We staff all over the Greater Phoenix area and Tucson to a majority of leading healthcare facilities and nationwide.”

AZ Business Leaders: Can you share a brief overview of the primary staffing focus of Concentric?

Andy Jacobs: In Concentric’s initial years, over 15 years ago, our focus was nurse staffing and behavioral health. Since then, we have greatly diversified our offerings to include laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, administrative in healthcare, occupational therapies, respiratory care and more. We staff all over the Greater Phoenix area and Tucson to a majority of leading healthcare facilities and nationwide.

ABL: What type of staffing positions has been the most competitive within the last year?

AJ: We’ve seen an upturn in our travel nursing, as well as behavioral health staffing. Behavioral health is an aspect of nursing and healthcare that will always be in demand in Arizona. Not only does it encompass clinics, group homes, and even jails, there are four-levels of behavioral health in schools alone. Aides are consistently required in many local schools for special needs students. Similarly, there are additional levels of competition in our travel nursing divisions and our therapy division throughout the U.S.

ABL: Do you anticipate any dominating trends in healthcare and nursing as we move toward 2019?

AJ: The healthcare industry on a macro level is in constant fluctuation, so it’s difficult to make concrete predictions. In staffing, it’s even more challenging to anticipate future trends because of the high rate of turnover. While some nurses have been here for over a decade, others have become travel nurses or have used staffing opportunities simply as a stop gap.

With that said, the influx of more local Baby Boomers and post-Baby Boomers will continue to necessitate staffing for long-term care, assisted living and healthcare in general.

Arizona, serving as home to snowbirds, also uniquely positions our industry to be prepared for trends involving the flu season, allergy season, and respiratory issues that affect not only residents but also part-time residents. Monsoons and molds can elicit allergies and respiratory conditions like Valley Fever during late summer months. Once the monsoon season ends, we are well into the fall and into the time when our snowbirds come back and school is in full session, this brings on more seasonal healthcare business with cold and flu season. With these respiratory diseases, health issues peak February through May when allergies come into play, we witness a greater demand for nursing and allied personnel.

ABL: How competitive is nursing and allied healthcare staffing? Do you foresee an increase/decrease in 2019?

AJ: Last year was extremely competitive. Now, in year 15, there is an abundance of positions available in which to place nurses and allied personnel. The more flexible a candidate can be in openness and willingness for opportunities, the better. We have found, too, that our candidates are accepting more creative possibilities. Even if a position may not meet as many needs of the candidate, they are more willing and likely to explore other creative options, and Concentric provides them.

Our competitive staffing success is partly secured in the firm educational requirements and foundations of our nurses. For a nurse to work here he/she needs at least one year of experience in their field. They must also be in compliance with our Joint Commission Standards which we are audited on every other year. All of our nursing staff are employees.

ABL: Is there a specific leading trend in educational focus/background you have observed of the nurses you help to staff?

AJ: We’ve been seeing a rise in our Therapy Division, which provides physical therapists, speech language pathologists, and occupational therapists, which in turn, I feel should bring about more therapy-focused educational avenues, which makes sense considering that Arizona will always have a need for these therapy positions.

ABL: What advice would you give to an individual interested in pursuing a career in nursing?

AJ: We just had young lady interview with us for an internal job position who expressed a desire to be a nurse. When she mentioned she wasn’t sure what area of nursing she wanted to go into, I encouraged her to take her time in school to figure it out. Most nurses naturally gravitate to an aspect of nursing that appeals to them once they’ve explored various options in school.

Nurses are the noblest creatures. We do our best to encourage any of our loyal employees who want to go into the field of nursing. We do our best to accommodate their educational and certification needs.

ABL: Are there any other areas of healthcare you envision evolving over the next few years?

AJ: I think we’ll continue to witness expansion all over the Valley. Experts anticipated that the Greater Phoenix and Tucson areas would grow into a megaplex and looks like we are beginning to see this from the expansion of Interstate 10 going to Tucson and the growth in both cities. When I see this type of growth over a wide range such as this, it tells me that hospital and healthcare expansion will come with it.

We may also experience additional shifts in healthcare when Obamacare transitions out or our government fixes it. For some time, we’ve only had one option for benefits here in Arizona for companies our size. With no competition, our premiums are very high and it hurts our industry because people in Arizona would rather skip that minor surgery that their insurance will no longer cover. The hope is that the more insurance competitors, the more people who will utilize healthcare facilities, which ultimately helps our business.

Healthcare leaders’ industry outlook

David Dexter, president and CEO, Sonora Quest Laboratories: “This is the most exciting and challenging time in healthcare, perhaps ever. We can reshape it and make it significantly better. At this point in my career, I want to make a difference for others and I know that I can.”

Kathleen H. Goeppinger, president and CEO, Midwestern University: “Midwestern University prepares all of our graduate healthcare professionals to embrace change, be open to a lifetime of learning, and adhere to the basic premises that patients come first and their wishes, overall health, and well-being must never be compromised.  Teaching students to embrace change will continue to expand as we see many wonderful transformations in healthcare.”

David J. Jacofsky, MD, chairman and CEO, The CORE Institute: “The healthcare industry’s rate of change is accelerating. We will start to see a fundamental transformation in how care is delivered and how stakeholders are incentivized to deliver care. This will continue to be marked by a shift away from volume-based reimbursement to value-based reimbursement.”

Steve Purves, president and CEO, Maricopa Integrated Health System: “I see great opportunities to reinvent our healthcare industry. Technology and innovation is creating possibilities to deliver better healthcare, at less cost and to better address the social determinants of health.”

Judy Rich, president and CEO, TMC HealthCare: “We’re getting smarter about how to navigate some of the changing dynamics we’re seeing, from how we use technology in communicating with patients and delivering care, to how we reduce fragmentation to improve the patient experience, to how we help our communities build a culture of wellness. It’s an exciting time.”