WHA Workforce Expert Featured on Wisconsin Health News Workforce Panel

March 12, 2020

“COVID-19 is going to magnify shortages that are already present,” noted WHA Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice Ann Zenk at the opening of a Wisconsin Health News Workforce Panel discussion held March 10 in Madison. Zenk and fellow panelists discussed not only the impact of COVID-19, but the compounded health care impact from the aging of the large baby boom generation.

“Health care is facing a shrinking workforce, just like every other industry,” Zenk explained, “but we are also already experiencing the increasing demand for health care that aging produces, and that’s only going to increase over the next decade.”

Other panelists included Dennis Winter, chief economist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development; Lisa Pugh, The Arc Wisconsin’s executive director; Wisconsin Assisted Living CEO Michael Pochowski and State Senator Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point).
All panelists agreed that difficulty filling caregiver positions, such as certified nursing assistants, is one of the biggest challenges created by competition for a shrinking workforce. Zenk added that hospitals and clinics are also experiencing shortages of advanced practice clinicians (APCs) and physicians. “Not only are we seeing almost constant churn in positions like nursing assistants as individuals are encouraged to embark on career advancement to nursing, advanced practice and medicine,” Zenk said, “we’re also seeing huge increases in demand for APCs to fill gaps in access created by physician shortages.”

Winter noted that “[w]e’ve got a volume problem. By 2030 it’s estimated the demand for employment is going to outnumber the available workers. That’s something that’s never happened before and it’s going to force us to figure out how to increase each worker’s productivity.”

Zenk concurred. “We are not going to grow our workforce fast enough to keep up with escalating demand,” Zenk said, “so we need to make sure we’re utilizing the available workforce as effectively and efficiently as possible.” Zenk said that team-based care, top-of-license care and technology can increase access but are hindered by regulatory burden. “Relieving the burden that unnecessary regulation places on not only the workforce, but on health care technology like electronic health records, is an essential step that health care organizations, professionals and state policymakers must work on together,” Zenk said.
For questions or for more information about Wisconsin’s health care workforce issues and solutions reach out to WHA’s Ann Zenk.

This story originally appeared in the March 12, 2020 edition of WHA Newsletter