Another report is spotlighting the labor shortage woes in the healthcare industry, but this one is focused squarely on the “significant workforce shortages” here in the Mountain State. The West Virginia Hospital Workforce Report 2023 looked at what declining college enrollment, increased burnout, aging workers, fewer people entering healthcare fields overall and the COVID-19 pandemic has done to our healthcare workforce.
Here we have high vacancy and turnover rates in all job categories: nursing, diagnostic imaging, medical laboratory and respiratory therapy. That is frightening, as we know the longer we plow through these shortages, the more we increase burnout and dropout rates for the workers who decided to stay.
“High vacancy and turnover rates negatively impact the continuity of care for patients, and this leads to higher operational costs due to expensive short-term staffing solutions and the recruiting and onboarding of new staff,” the report reads, according to WV News. “This adds to the financial challenges hospitals and other health care providers are facing.”
But we know that. The question is what do we do about it?
“More attention needs to be paid to increasing the pipeline into these positions, as well as ensuring support for students to successfully complete their education and obtain licensure or certification in a timely fashion,” says the report. “We also need to address keeping graduates in West Virginia, attracting more qualified workers to the state, and strengthening the existing workforce to help decrease turnover and vacancy rates.”
The solution is a “multi-faceted and long-term collaborative commitment by a variety of stakeholders in education, health care, policy, and more,” according to the report.
West Virginia’s Nursing Workforce Expansion Program launched in December 2021. It attracted 810 new nursing students during its first year.
After that, the real trick in filling the gaps with those who have been educated and gotten their early experience here will be keeping them here. That effort “demands innovation and collaboration at all levels — local, state, and federal — with a focus on new, strategic investments to recruit and retain all West Virginia health care professionals,” Whitney Cherry, coordinator of communications and legislative affairs for the West Virginia Hospital Association, told WV News. “We are fortunate there is a great partnership between our federal policymakers, the governor, state legislative leaders, our education community, and our hospitals as we continue to address this ongoing challenge.”
We are fortunate, indeed, but they must continue to rise to that challenge.