If there was a time of great opportunity for skilled health care workers, it is now. The economy has improved, the health care sector is leading in job creation and demand for health services continues to increase. Unfortunately, what’s good for the worker isn’t always good for the organization as a whole.
In This Issue
This year’s MHA workforce report finds high rates of turnover in the state’s health care workforce — exceeding 18 percent in aggregate — and at 17.9 percent on average for R.N. staff nurses, statewide. That’s not particularly good news.
Some of the highest turnover positions are in less skilled areas. However, the high turnover rates for the clinical mainstays of hospital care, including R.N.s, are particularly troubling.
Vacancy rates are high as well. Although switching jobs between hospitals and within other care settings most likely reflects movement by current employees, high vacancy rates signal a different problem — workforce inadequacy. The R.N. staff nurse vacancy rate statewide was 9.2 percent and the rate for behavioral health R.N.s was more than 10 percent. Although the turnover rate for physician assistants was less than 10 percent, the vacancy rate was greater.
The message is clear. Missouri isn’t producing or attracting enough skilled health care workers.
The news isn’t all bad. There’s a lot of work being done to strengthen and enlarge the workforce. MHA’s Grow Your Own Program and the current Hospital Employee Scholarship Program are two examples of investments hospitals are making communitywide.
MHA is participating in several other initiatives to build the statewide workforce. As a partner, MHA is supporting the work of the Missouri Healthcare Workforce Coalition. The coalition held a primary care summit earlier this year to identify opportunities and challenges in the primary care workforce and collaborate on solutions. One of the goals of this group was accomplished through legislation this session — a health care workforce database — and other initiatives are being pursued.
Earlier this year, the Missouri Department of Social Services was awarded a nearly $15 million, five-year grant to support job training in health-related fields that are expected to either experience a labor shortage or be in high demand. The Health Professions Opportunity Grant will provide support for low-income Missourians in the St. Louis, Kansas City and central Missouri regions to enter health professions. MHA is supporting this work statewide.
We’re making progress in bringing the right organizations together to ensure resources aren’t wasted or duplicated. However, there’s much work to be done.
The vacancy and turnover rates outlined in this year’s report aren’t sustainable. Unfortunately, many of the high-vacancy, high-skill professions require years of training before they arrive at the bedside. The turnover churn that is occurring may slow. However, as long as hospitals are competing for talent in an insufficient candidate pool, skilled workers will benefit from the shortage.
Our historic hospital investments in expanding the educational pipeline, strengthening preceptor activities and engaging staff in skills-improvement, have provided a foundation for the future. Better coordination with all stakeholders will support additional and more targeted investment.
This year’s report underscores the immediate workforce challenges. The subtext is that health careers have a bright future.
Let me know what you’re thinking.
Herb B. Kuhn
MHA President and CEO
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