Navigating Missouri’s Health Care Workforce

July 27, 2016

Author: Meredith Kenyon
Vice President of Workforce and Education

MHA has been collecting vacancy and turnover rates of hospital-based professions since 2001. Throughout the last 15 years, the report has evolved. Today, health care is the fastest growing job sector, and demand for both skilled and unskilled workers is high.

MHA’s newly released 2016 Workforce Report, Mapping Missouri’s Health Care Workforce, finds continuing high rates of vacancy and turnover in hospital-based health professions statewide. The report includes data from 148 hospitals and identifies trends among 36 hospital-based positions, and five clinic and physician practice positions. Complete turnover and vacancy information for surveyed positions is available on the workforce Web page.

Recruiting and retaining qualified health care workers in a highly competitive labor market is a major challenge facing Missouri hospitals.

There are a multitude of factors impacting the health care workforce in Missouri including:

  • sicker hospital patients
  • expanded access to health care
  • new positions created by the Affordable Care Act
  • an aging patient population
  • retirement of baby boomers from health care professions
  • millennials becoming the largest generation in the workforce
  • accessibility to a wealth of job opportunities at the click of a button
  • lack of Missouri Medicaid expansion

Although several workforce investments have been made throughout the last year, the state’s hospital workforce continues to experience troublingly high rates of vacancy and turnover. This year’s report finds that Staff Nurse (R.N.) turnover reached an all-time high of 17.9 percent during the survey period. The category comprises nearly 60 percent of the hospital workforce. Although the exact causes of turnover are unclear, the price remains very high — the turnover of each bedside nurse is estimated to cost a hospital between $36,900 and $57,300. Housekeeper turnover is the highest in the state at 29.6 percent. Both of these professions are critical to supporting a fully-functioning hospital.

Vacancy rates are a concern for hospitals as well. Vacancy rates reflect difficulty in finding employees, rather than turnover within the workforce. Missouri is facing a serious mental health workforce shortage. Behavioral Health Nurse (R.N.) vacancy is the highest in the state at 12 percent.

Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t use an old map to explore a new world.” Consider the next era of health care reform. As hospitals and patient care evolve, delivering the workforce needed to care for Missourians in the future requires new investments where all stakeholders on the map must work collaboratively to strengthen and enlarge the state’s health care workforce, building new health career pathways to fill vacancies and eliminating road blocks to improve turnover. This year’s workforce report will help all stakeholders plot the position workforce on the map. To get to the destination, there must be concerted effort to identify the best route forward. Workforce development is a long-term endeavor, and course corrections will be part of the road ahead. Missouri needs long-term investment and ongoing partnerships to deliver the workforce Missourians deserve.