Report Finds High Vacancy Rates In Hospital Workforce

A new report from the Missouri Hospital Association finds that the statewide vacancy rate for staff nurses — a mainstay of hospital care and the single largest category of employees — has increased to 15.9 percent. In addition, turnover for staff nurses remains high at 14.3 percent. A high nurse vacancy rate is consequential because it can signal difficulty in finding trained professionals. Turnover, which exceeded vacancy in last year’s report, often reflects movement within the workforce.

Read the report here: Identifying Paths To A Strong, Sustainable Health Care Workforce — 2017 Workforce Report

“There has been a significant increase in vacancies throughout the positions included in the survey,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA President and CEO. “High vacancy rates are partly driven by an increasing demand for health care services. However, the need for replacement workers as a result of an aging health care workforce is contributing to the bottleneck.”

Nurses comprise more than 60 percent of the hospital workforce. This year, for the first time, hospital staff nurses were the position with the highest vacancy.

Hospital staff nurses serve an essential role in care delivery. Last year’s report found staff nurse turnover at an all-time high of 17.9 percent. However, the 2017 report indicated turnover among staff R.N.s has decreased to 14.3 percent.

Review regional workforce status here: Regional reports

An improved economy and older workers departing the workforce have created an environment favorable to employee vacancy and turnover. The cost of turnover is high — the turnover of each bedside nurse is estimated to cost a hospital between $37,700 and $58,400. Vacancies create management challenges by limiting staffing options throughout the organization.

“Innovation and collaboration will be necessary to address the workforce needs,” Kuhn said. “Several ongoing efforts are strengthening the workforce, and a new focus on career pathways will help incumbent health care workers move up the career ladder.”

Because health professionals are in high demand, competition is local, regional and national. Missouri has limits on scope of practice for some clinical professionals such as advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants. Limits on scope of practices makes Missouri a less attractive state to these highly skilled caregivers. APRNs and P.A.s are among the top 10 positions for vacancies.

In addition, nurse practitioners and physician assistants extend access to primary care; limits on the scope of practice exacerbates physician shortages, especially in rural areas. Practice-related policy changes could mitigate some of Missouri’s disadvantage in attracting and retaining these high-skill health care workers.

“Every Missourian has a stake in the strength of the hospital and health care workforce,” Kuhn said. “Important investments are being made. However, many hospital professions require years of training before they are prepared to deliver or support care. Missouri needs long-term investment and ongoing partnerships to deliver the workforce Missourians require.”