The “nurse shortage has arrived,” proclaims the latest state health workforce report, with the pandemic accelerating the previously predicted staffing crisis.
The perfect storm of an aging workforce, with the retirement of health professionals coinciding with the growth of the elderly population – the “silver tsunami” – has been anticipated for years by the Wisconsin Hospital Association, according to data from its annual health workforce report. And amid the pandemic, extreme burnout has led to more staff leaving their jobs – and perhaps the medical field entirely – in large numbers.
Healthcare entities need skilled staff more than ever, with hospitalized COVID patients needing more resources, additional services – like vaccinations and COVID testing – requiring more manpower, and those who have delayed care due to the pandemic are now rescheduling their visits or procedures. Additionally, nursing home staffing shortages mean people are staying in hospitals longer than necessary – the WHA estimates that at one point in 2021, 600 patients were occupying hospital beds in Wisconsin in waiting to be admitted to a long-term care facility.
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The strain on staff has been felt at facilities nationally, statefully and locally.
“We are certainly living what the report shows,” says Janine Luz, vice president of human resources at Gundersen Health System.
According to the WHA’s 2022 Workforce Report, in Wisconsin, vacancies in 13 of 17 tracked occupations increased in 2021, some by double digits, with the lowest number of registered nurses since. 2005. Frontline clinical and technical staff are among the roles with the most vacancies, with CNA turnover “far exceeding all other segments of the hospital workforce.”
Before 2021, the report shows that about one in four CNAs would change jobs, up from one in three in 2021. For RNs, the numbers for the same time periods were one in 10 and nearly one in five, respectively.
“Our healthcare workforce has taken on an enormous professional, mental and emotional burden during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHA Senior Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice Ann Zenk. “They are understandably burnt out. They cared for us in extremely difficult circumstances and at a time when their own ranks were depleted by illness and burnout. Wisconsin healthcare workers deserve our understanding and our commitment as we work together to bridge the gaps between labor supply and demand to maintain our state’s high-quality care.
WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding added, “Addressing the healthcare worker shortage that has accumulated in Wisconsin and has been exacerbated by COVID-19 will require a strategy. concerted and sustained effort involving healthcare organizations, educators and policy makers who encourage, support and advance healthcare workers in their pursuit of fulfilling and meaningful careers. »
The WHA outlines several measures to address the shortage of health workers, including retention and recruitment strategies, promoting the use of telemedicine, reducing regulatory burdens and increasing regulatory flexibility, and creation of private/public partnerships. Gundersen is among organizations developing new strategies to recruit and retain employees to keep its hospitals running smoothly and continue to deliver high-level care.
At Gundersen, efforts include creating a career development and mental health resource center. Short and long term plans are implemented.
“We are exploring all possible avenues to find the talent we need,” says Luz. The Career Development Centre, which launched a year ago, matches professionals with staff who wish to pursue other roles in medicine, advance or plan a long-term career.
The timing of the Career Development Center opening was fortuitous, and Luz believes it “is really going to help us create this (talent) pool – making sure people know how important a career in the field is health care can be rewarding There are plenty of opportunities for people to work in many industries these days, but there are few that you can step into and feel such a sense that you are truly helping the community in where you find yourself every day. We think that’s going to be a very important long-term thing for us.”
The Gundersen Physician Assistant Internship Program is also offered, which covers tuition while the individual works in the hospital, alongside a professional, for on-the-job learning. And for those new to the organization, like recent graduates from nursing programs, “We have a really good support system around them – (those) with roles specifically focused on onboarding (helping employees to understand the position and its requirements).”
To deal with the mental stress of working in the medical field, Gundersen offers guidance to staff, and clinicians can be matched with peer coaches who understand the specific burdens they may be experiencing and work through feelings of burnout. professional.
Legislators introduce CNA Workforce Act
Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) and Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) introduced two bills in February intended to help address the state’s nursing shortage by helping to defray the cost of nursing. training of nursing assistants.
Under LRB-5730, grants would be available to technical college district boards in areas with shortages of nurse aides to facilitate access to training, while LRB-5729 would provide credit for individual income tax refundable up to $1,500 for tuition fees and materials required for those training to become CNAs.
“Wisconsin faces a significant shortage of practical nurses, which creates an urgent need to attract people to the profession,” Subeck said. “CNAs take care of us and our loved ones when we are most vulnerable, which makes access to quality training crucial. The CNA Workforce Act will make training more accessible and offset costs for those pursuing careers in caregiving in our state. »
The bill was returned to the Committee of Universities and technical colleges.
Emily Pyrek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.