Health Workforce Shortages

Information on how the COVID-19 pandemic is creating workforce shortages, as well as organizational efforts to recruit and retain their workforce.

(05/13/22) More Men Are Going into Nursing: What about Travel Nursing?
A new Becker’s Hospital Review article investigates whether more male nurses are going into travel nursing. The data is incomplete and “foggy”, so it is hard to determine if this assumption is true. The article also interviews four male nurses about how they chose their career path.

(05/11/22) Nurse Workforce Shortage Looms as More Nurses May Leave Profession
The 2022 Nursing Salaries Report by nurses.com found that the pandemic had both positive and negative effects on nursing careers. Of the 2,516 nurses surveyed notable concerns emerge including pay disparities among gender and race and increases to both the percentage of nurses considering changing employers and those who were considering leaving the profession.

(05/11/22) Assessing the Lingering Impact of COVID-19 on the Nursing Workforce
This McKinsey article evaluates the impact COVID-19 has had on the nursing workforce. In particular, the workforce and operational challenges caused by increases in patient demand and the potential gaps in the health care sector in the coming years. Three causes for this are: decreased supply of the RN workforce, increased patient demand due to COVID-19, and increased demands due to the aging population.This article also examines possible solutions and ways to address the problem.

(05/02/2022) How AI Is Helping to Address Staffing Shortages in Healthcare
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to alleviate the burden on overworked health care providers. AI has shown its ability to improve productivity in a variety of domains. This article summarizes cases where hospitals improved their work processes and patient care by automating patient care, enabling predictive resource allocation, and triaging patients.

(04/29/22) AMA Strives for Health Equity, Greater Medical Workforce Diversity
Building on its commitment to tackle healthcare disparities by increasing diversity in the medical workforce, the AMA recently announced a new initiative “In Full Health Learning and Action Community to Advance Equitable Health Innovation.” The initiative assists healthcare organizations in ensuring their investments in healthcare technologies focus on improving healthcare equality.

(04/28/22) Amid Shortages and Burnout, Could Adding More Men Ease the Nation’s Nursing Woes?
For 2021-2022 Federal data shows the number of registered nurses dropped by about 2%. Increasing the number of male nurses would offset workforce shortages and improve healthcare provider diversity. Despite nursing programs seeing a 3.3% increase in program enrollment in 2021; males account for 14% of students enrolled in nursing programs. In 2021 just 13.3% of registered nurses were male. During the pandemic the increased attention to nursing and its opportunities may result in more males pursuing nursing as a career but the stereotype of nurses being female is a challenge that must be overcome. While the data shows small gains, it is unclear if the interest in nursing by males will be enough to offset the losses that the pandemic dealt to the nursing workforce.

(04/19/22) Recent Survey Shows Primary Care Practices are Overwhelmed, With 1 in 4 Clinicians Planning to Leave Within the Next Three Years
A recent study from the L.A. Green Center and the Primary Care Collaborative finds that 25% of primary care clinicians plan to leave within 3 years. This study comes at a difficult time for primary care clinicians who are struggling to meet patient needs during the pandemic, dealing with clinician burnout, and facing delayed access to care. 46% of survey respondents feel that “primary care is crumbling” and 53% feel that their ability to overcome adversity and recover is limited, which increased from 29% in 2020.

(04/18/22) What’s Driving Turnover in Health Care During COVID-19?
In a recent video interview with HCPLive, Researcher Bianca Frogner from the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies discussed findings from her team’s research including, turnover rates among long term care facility workers in 2021.

(04/13/22) A Worrisome Drop in The Number of Young Nurses
Although registered nurses (RN) have seen increased growth in the US since the 1970’s, a new study in Health Affairs finds that RN growth during the pandemic “plateaued during the first 15 months.” Reasons for the RN lack of growth in the last year possibly include: pandemic burnout, staffing shortages due to COVID-19, and early retirements, among others. A major concern from the data presented, covering all of 2021, is that RN’s have decreased more than 100,000 in one year– a significant drop from anytime over the last forty years.

(04/11/22) Governor Hochul Announces Historic $20 Billion Multi-year Healthcare Investment in FY 2023 Budget
Governor Kathy Hochul of New York announced a $20 billion multi-year investment in healthcare in the Fiscal Year 2023 State Budget. Improving working conditions for healthcare workers will be a priority, with $1.2 billion set aside for frontline healthcare worker bonuses and a multi-year investment of $4.5 billion in payment reform. Other investments include $2.4 billion to improve healthcare infrastructure and $3.9 billion to assist hospitals suffering financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(04/04/22) Nursing Facility Staffing Shortages During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This analysis examines nursing facility staffing shortages during the pandemic by looking at recent national and state level data (from May 2020 through March 20, 2022). This article also describes the Biden Administration’s recent policy initiatives to deal with staffing concerns in nursing facilities.

(03/31/22) Pandemic Funding Is Running Out for Community Health Workers
This jointly-published article from Kaiser Health News and U.S. News & World Report covers the current funding situation of community health workers, positioned as essential for delivering President Biden’s public health agenda and supported by pandemic relief funding. Much of the funding intended for community health workers was spent elsewhere, and funding is currently running out.

(03/23/22) California Delays Tighter Rules for Travel Nurses
California has extended the deadline by which out-of-state nurses will not be allowed to work in the state without a California nursing license, according to the state board of registered nursing. The original expiration date was March 31 but the new proposed deadline is June 30, or the end of the state of emergency or when the executive order is rescinded, according to the Emergency Medical Services Authority.

(03/18/22) VA Seeks Higher Pay Caps for More Health Care Workers to Address High Turnover Rates
Faced with thousands of job vacancies and a high turnover rate among its health care employees, the Department of Veterans Affairs is asking Congress to increase pay caps for more occupations and reduce onboarding requirements. The RAISE Act was passed as part of the fiscal 2022 omnibus funding bill. It will establish higher pay caps for VA registered nurses and physician assistants. The Veterans Health Administration continues to urge federal legislators to adopt legislation increasing the salary limitations for other occupations.

(03/18/22) Nursing Facility Staffing Shortages During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation covers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing facility staffing, as nursing facilities experienced deeper shortages and turnover. These issues were already long-standing pre-pandemic, and have only been made worse as the pandemic continued. The brief measures from May 2020 until February 2022.

(03/16/22) Hospitals Face Severe Pharmacy Technician Shortage, Surveys Show
Nearly 1 in 10 organizations are reporting they had lost at least 41 percent of pharmacy technicians, according to a new study from American Society of Health System Pharmacists. In addition to the study finding that pharmacy technicians are in short supply at hospitals and health systems, the study also found that a majority of pharmacy administrators reported turnover rates of at least 21 percent in 2021.

(03/16/22) Hospitals to Lean on More Expensive Travel Nurses Even After COVID
The use of travel nurses in hospitals to fill workforce gaps will continue after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, according to a new Bloomberg News report. In a tight labor market, organizations are struggling to fill job vacancies. Many hospitals and health systems are paying extra to retain and recruit workers. High housing costs are also preventing some health workers from taking healthcare jobs. Experts claim that demand for travel nurses will continue as long as the current workforce gaps exist.

(03/10/22) Nurses Are Waiting Months for Licenses as Hospital Staffing Shortages Spread
A New NPR report finds that hospitals and health systems in the US are making efforts to quickly increase staffing and fill workforce gaps, but nurses are still waiting months for licenses’ from states to begin treating patients. NPR made an analysis of licensing records in 32 states based on nursing board records for more than 226,000 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses issued new, permanent licenses last year. The study found that 1 in 10 nurses who received new licenses from nursing boards in 2021, waited 6 months or longer. More than one-third of the nurses waited at least three months.

(03/06/22) Two Years Into the Pandemic, Healthcare Workers Reflect on the Challenges and Rewarding Moments
Another COVID-19 wave is sweeping across hospitals. Despite the fact that Omicron cases are declining, staffing shortages continue to impose strain on health-care systems. This article contains interviews with doctors and nurses who describe how the two-year pandemic has affected them. Thousands of healthcare employees are quitting from their jobs. As baby boomers retire, nurses are departing, causing severe shortages in hospitals and nursing school programs.

(02/28/22) Many Mass Hospitals Are Short-staffed. The Culprit May Not Be a Shortage of Nurses
Although many Massachusetts hospitals are short staffed, there are more licensed nurses now in almost every category than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortage is not because of lack of nurse but lack of nurses willing to work under the current pandemic conditions. Retaining nurses and addressing burnout is now a top priority.

(02/28/22) Hospitals Turn to International Nurses to Fill Staffing Gaps
Hospitals nationwide are filling nursing shortages and staffing strain experienced by the COVID-19 pandemic, by bringing in foreign workers. As of January 24 in the US, around 1,000 nurses were arriving monthly from African nations. The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment reported on February 11 that thousands of foreign-born nurses are waiting on visas so they can start jobs in the US.

(02/22/22) Virginia Gov Youngkin Signs Order Addressing Health Care Staffing Issues
On February 21, 2022, Virginia Governor’s Executive Order 16 went into effect. In order to address staffing shortages, it temporarily suspends various restrictions for hospitals and healthcare facilities. To combat COVID-19, the order would provide more flexibility to hospitals, health systems, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, certified nursing facilities, and other health care providers. Many guidelines are included in the order, such as provisions for telehealth support, recognizing out-of-state health care workers, and increasing hospital bed capacity.

(02/16/22) Michigan to Spend $1.2B to Fight COVID-19, Address Health Care Worker Shortage
Michigan’s governor signed legislation authorizing $1.2 billion in COVID-19 relief efforts. Part of the fund will be spent on health care staffing, COVID-19 testing in schools, and improving laboratory testing procedures. This new law comes amid four local hospitals calling in the National Guard for staffing support.

(02/13/22) ‘A Real Crisis’: License Backlogs in Some States Prevent Health-care Workers From Seeing Patients
Health care workers from New York and Wisconsin are facing license delays, which is preventing them from entering the workforce in certain states and seeing patients. The delays are putting further strain on the health workforce which is facing staff shortages and mental health issues during the prolonged pandemic. These issues are also affecting patients’ ability to get care.

(02/11/22) For Travel Nurses, Jobs at Home Can’t Come Close to Pay They Get on the Road
Travel nurses are finding more lucrative opportunities away from home. Although some hospitals are paying large sums to traveling nurses filling in staffing gaps, many hospitals require RNs to accept full time positions. The wages the hospitals are offering do no come close to the more than $120 an hour a travel nurses can make.

(02/10/22) In Rural America, Patients Are Waiting for Care — Sometimes With Deadly Consequences
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt access to care for many patients, including those seeking care for non-COVID-19-related illness. High patient loads paired with shortages in staff, bedspace, and resources are creating access issues at rural hospitals throughout the United States.

(02/09/22) The Doctor Will See You Now — In the Hallway
Even though cases of COVID-19 are receding in most states, hospitals are still struggling to accommodate all the new COVID-19 patients. In Oregon, the Salem Health Hospital, has been at 100 percent capacity for months with patients doubled up and even tripled up in hospital beds in some cases. The COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages has also led to struggles discharging patients to nursing homes. Most long term care facilities are closed to new admissions.

(02/07/22) US, State Politicians Aim to Cap Health Workers’ Pay
As hospitals and nursing homes resort to staffing companies to replace burned-out employees, some state politicians in Pennsylvania are considering capping employee compensation in order to save the health care facilities’ money. In recent weeks, US and state politicians from both parties have questioned the compensation paid to temporary medical professionals hired by staffing companies in letters and legislative proposals. The signatories requested that federal authorities look into whether the high fees violate consumer protection laws.

(02/06/22) Staff Shortages, COVID Patients Pushing Hospitals to Breaking Point
This article from 60 Minutes discusses the scene in a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, where hospital staff were interviewed regarding their work through the COVID-19 pandemic. The case of this hospital struggling with staffing shortages and burnout is not unique, given over 400,000 health care workers have left the profession since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(02/04/22) Nurses Can Earn Much More As Traveling Nurses. But the Job Comes at Another Cost
An interview on All Things Considered from NPR features a travel nurse describing the reasons a nurse may want to leave a single hospital and instead travel. Travel nurses can receive hourly rates significantly higher than registered nurses can, and can address localized staffing shortages at least in the short term, albeit at significant cost to hospitals. Workers can also suffer from being far from their families and outside of a stable and consistent work environment.

(02/03/22) Pandemic-fueled Shortages of Home Health Workers Strand Patients Without Necessary Care
This jointly-published article from CNN and Kaiser Health News highlights a crisis in home health care, where as many as 40% of new referrals for patients to receive home health care are rejected due to shortages in staff to provide the needed care.

(01/29/22) A Bizarre Wisconsin Hospital Lawsuit Shows How COVID-19 Changed the Balance of Power for Medical Workers
A unique lawsuit at a hospital in Wisconsin shows the immense change the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on the labor market for health care workers. Widespread worker shortages have been sustained for nearly two years, if not longer in some cases, and lawsuits are being filed to attempt to prevent workers from leaving their positions for higher paying positions elsewhere, with fear of hospital closures due to lack of staff.

(01/28/22) COVID-19’s Impact on Nursing Shortages, The Rise Of Travel Nurses, and Price Gouging
This article published in Health Affairs looks at the rise of use of travel nurses to address during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact this has had on workforce shortages and the price of labor in health care. Travel nursing has significantly higher pay to workers and cost to employers, but helps alleviate existing shortages. State and federal programs seek to monitor and potentially restrict potential price gouging practices.

(01/25/22) With a Vaccine Mandate Looming, Nursing Homes Face More Staffing Problems
As the pandemic continues, inadequate staffing at nursing homes continues to be a major issue. Now a new vaccine mandate may cause nursing homes like Frontier Health and Rehabilitation in St. Charles, Missouri to risk losing funding from Medicaid and Medicare if their staff is not fully vaccinated by March 15. Frontiers staff vaccination rate was just 30% at the start of 2022 which is 50 percent less than the national rate, according to federal data.

(01/19/22) COVID-19 Is No Longer the Biggest Issue Facing Hospitals. Staffing Is
This opinion piece published in STAT covers challenges brought up by health system CEOs and CFOs at the 40th Annual JP Morgan Health Care Conference: health care staffing issues are especially difficult given the demands of the profession and related burnout from two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently there are thousands of open positions at health care facilities throughout the United States, with a need to recruit, accelerate education, and seek other methods to meet the consequences of labor shortages.

(01/18/22) Medicine’s Great Resignation? 1 in 5 Doctors Plan Exit in 2 Years
This article from the American Medical Association discusses the findings of a recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings covering the stress and work intentions of health care workers in the United States as they relate to working during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many providers are considering reducing hours or leaving the profession entirely, the article suggests some opportunities to help improve morale among providers, including supporting child care and ensuring access to confidential mental health services.

(01/14/22) Some States Have Fewer Than 10% of ICU Beds Left As Health Care Staffing Shortages Complicate Care
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has increased demand for intensive care unit beds in health care systems throughout the United States. Less than 15% of intensive care unit beds are available in nineteen states, with the national guard and other federal emergency teams responding in multiple states to help with both medical and non-medical tasks, increasing workforce capacity.

(01/13/22) ERs Are Overwhelmed As Omicron Continues to Flood Them With Patients
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the United States continue to be a major challenge for health systems throughout the nation. As reported by NPR, the apparent lack of severity of the Omicron variant is being offset by the contagiousness of the virus, with emergency departments taking the brunt of the waves of patients while already short on staff, making a bad situation worse.

(01/13/22) A Cascade of Omicron-driven Shortages Puts US Hospitals in a Bind
Shortages of medical supplies to treat COVID-19 are being exacerbated by shortages in staff to attend to patients and lack of bedspace due to rising infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the United States. This article from STAT covers how shortages of both supplies and staff are leading to worse patient outcomes and frustration for both patients and providers

(01/10/22) Health Care Workers Are Panicked As Desperate Hospitals Ask Infected Staff to Return
This article from Politico discusses the current reality of COVID-19-positive health care workers who are asymptomatic, and sometimes even symptomatic being forced to return to work. Hospitals and health facilities across the United States are experiencing unprecedented outages of staff due to COVID-19, with the highly-vaccinated workforce still becoming sick.

(01/07/22) Hospitals Recruit International Nurses to Fill Pandemic Shortages
This article, jointly published by NPR and Kaiser Health News, covers the demand for international health care workers in the struggle to meet staffing requirements to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, one-sixth of the nursing workforce in the United States is foreign born, and a backlog exists of thousands of nurses seeking visa approvals to begin working in health care facilities in the United States.

(01/04/22) Nurse Employment During the First Fifteen Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic
New research published in Health Affairs evaluates the labor market for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants through the first 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, ending evaluation in June 2021.

(01/03/22) 16 States Where Hospitals Are Experiencing Workforce Shortages
This list from Becker’s Hospital Review offers insight on sixteen states with critical staffing shortages in at least 25% of their hospitals. Beyond these sixteen states, another twenty-one states expect critical staffing shortages in the coming week.

(12/29/21) 75% of Healthcare Facilities Need Temp Workers, Survey Finds
A recent survey by AMN Healthcare finds that three-fourths of health care facilities in the United States are seeking temporary health care workers, especially allied health professionals, in an effort to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most in-demand workers include respiratory therapists, laboratory technologists, and radiologic technologists.

(12/24/21) CDC Shortens Isolation Time for Health Care Workers With COVID-19
In response to the Omicron variant, the CDC is shortening the isolation period for healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19. According to a new guideline released Thursday, healthcare workers with COVID-19 may return to work after seven days if they are asymptomatic and test negative. The agency says that the isolation period can even be shorter if there are staffing shortages. To return to work after the infection, healthcare workers should obtain a negative test result within 48 hours.

(12/21/21) Biden Announces Free Home COVID Testing, Emergency Hospital Support to Head Off Winter Omicron Surge
President Joe Biden announced this week that his administration plans to provide half billion COVID-19 at home rapid-tests that will be distributed to Americans for free. In addition to opening new testing sites, the Biden administration is directing an additional 1,000 medical personnel from the armed services to assist at hospitals as needed starting in January and February 2022. The president has also ordered to deploy six emergency response teams (more than 100 clinical personnel and paramedics) to hard hit states including, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont.

(12/21/21) With Omicron Now Dominant, Depleted US Hospitals Struggle to Prepare for The Worst
This article from NPR covers the current struggles in hospitals across the United States as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 becomes the dominant strain in the country. Hospitals are short on staff and increasingly filling with this more contagious variant.

(12/13/21) Some Hospitals Drop Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates to Ease Labor Shortages
Several of the largest hospitals in the US have dropped vaccine mandates for hospital staff after a federal judge halted a Biden administration that health workers get vaccinated. The mandates are being dropped due to rising labor costs, nurse shortages, and burnout.

(12/06/21) Gov Hochul Will Order Some NY Hospitals to Halt Elective Surgeries
Following sustained issues maintaining capacity, the governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, has announced new COVID-19 regulations that will halt certain elective procedures in an effort to maintain capacity. New York has previously paused elective procedures as a tool to address COVID-19 surges.

See More Resources