Missouri’s unfilled nursing positions increased 98% since 2019

One in five registered nurse positions in Missouri is unfilled – a 98% increase from two years ago – according to a new report by the Missouri Hospital Association.

The “2022 Workforce Report” surveyed 128 Missouri hospitals for information on 32 hospital and clinic-based positions. In addition to vacancies, the MHA found a turnover rate of 25% for all medical positions. Hospital workforce challenges are creating a risk in providing health care and maintaining a sustainable workforce, the report said.

“The pandemic was highly disruptive to the hospital workforce,” Jon D. Doolittle, president and chief executive officer of the MHA, said in announcing the report. “As we exited 2021, the indications of a full-blown crisis in hospital staff were emerging.”

The report found nurses and respiratory therapists, two positions essential to the COVID-19 response, have the highest vacancy rates. The staff registered nurse vacancy rate of 19.8% is the highest in the 21-year history of the MHA survey. Respiratory therapists, who often care for the most critical patients and those placed on a ventilator, had a vacancy rate of 21%, which was 90% higher than in 2020.

Doolittle said many factors cause staffing challenges, including burnout and fatigue from COVID-19 and departures from the health care sector. Plus, agency staff’s wages are higher and attract medical professionals away from hospital staff.

“It isn’t yet clear if time will mitigate these challenges,” Doolittle said.

The Kansas City region had the highest vacancy rate for registered nurses (24%), while Ozark had the lowest (10.9%). The region with the highest turnover rate for registered nurses was south-central (40.9%), while the lowest was northeast and Ozark (19.5%).

In addition to meeting the immediate workforce challenges to maintain health care operations, the MHA called on all Missourians and elected officials to focus on future workforce development.

“Hospitals and health systems, higher education institutions, government, and others – from the local to the national level – have recognized the structural problems in the workforce,” the report stated. “There is a growing commitment to investing in today’s workers while fostering opportunities for tomorrow’s workers. Every Missourian has a stake in the success of this effort.”

This article was originally posted on Missouri’s unfilled nursing positions increased 98% since 2019

Author: Joe Mueller

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