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Wisconsin Hospital Association calls for solutions as nursing shortage arrives


The Wisconsin Hospital Association is sharing a dire message in its latest Healthcare Workforce Report: “The nursing shortage is here.”

WHA knew this was coming, the “silver tsunami” of a retiring workforce without enough young workers to replace them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue says WHA Senior Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice Ann Zenk.

“You know in some cases it created a tipping point into shortages that we had been previously able to hold off,” said Zenk.

The WHA’s 2022 Health Care Workforce Report found job vacancies increased in 13 out of 17 healthcare professions.

Registered nursing vacancies rates were the highest they’ve been since 2005.

“We’ve bene anxious about a nursing shortage for the last several years. In at least in our 2021 data, nursing vacancy rates at Wisconsin hospitals doubled in 2021 over previous levels,” said Zenk.

While hospitals all over the state are dealing with the shortage, it can sometimes impact rural hospitals more.

“Rural hospitals very often have a smaller workforce, a smaller number of nurses on staff so if one or two leave that makes a much greater impact on that hospital,” she said.

Zenk says it will take everyone from employers to lawmakers working together to solve this shortage.

WHA outlined several recommendations in its reports:

  • Build public-private partnerships to “Grow Our Own” Wisconsin health care workforce;
  • Promote rapid innovations to retain and recruit workers to Wisconsin’s health care workforce;
  • Break down barriers to top-of-skill practice;
  • Further bolster acceptance and efficient utilization of telemedicine and technology;
  • Reduce regulatory burden and increase regulatory flexibility; and,
  • Support care in the best setting—inpatient, outpatient or post-acute.

There is some good news in the report.
While the high stress of the pandemic led to a lot of burnouts among health care professionals, Zenk says it also led to a lot of people becoming interested in the medical field.

“There’s continued and renewed interest in health careers. Enrollment in nursing schools increased in both 2020 and 2021,” said Zenk.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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