Health Care Transformation Creates New Job Opportunities in Hospital Workforce


New care models aim to improve care, reduce cost, increase access

Mary Kay Grasmick, 608-274-1820, 575-7516

2015 Workforce report coverMADISON (December 16, 2015) ----Hospitals and health systems are reshaping traditional work roles and creating new positions that did not exist just a few years ago as they transform care delivery models to improve care, reduce cost, and increase access, according to a new report released by the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA).

Positions such as patient navigator, care coordinator, health coach and telehealth-trained physicians are now regularly included in hospital recruitment efforts.

“As we redesign health care, we also must redesign the workforce to accommodate new models of care,” according to Steve Rush, RN, Ph.D., WHA vice president of workforce and clinical practice. “Health reform was taking shape in Wisconsin well before the law was passed. While the Affordable Care Act accelerated the rate of change in some areas, such as reimbursement, other factors unrelated to the ACA were having a strong influence on workforce.”

Those factors included shortages of clinical professionals, the rate of staff retirements and caring for patients with complex medical conditions. In addition, Wisconsin is aging more quickly than most other states, which has implications on utilizations and the types of services that are needed locally.

The pace of retirements is expected to accelerate, especially for nurses. More than 40 percent of the registered nurses (RNs) working in Wisconsin are older than 50 and 33 percent are over 55 years of age. Hospitals reported an RN vacancy rate of 4.5 percent, the first time in five years it has increased more than 15 percent in one year.

“Some national forecasting models say the nursing shortage has been largely eliminated,” Rush said.

“However, based on the current age of nurses here, we could see as many as 3,000 nurses retire each year for the next decade. That will have implications on how quickly vacancies can be filled, so we are closely monitoring the number of new grads who enter the market compared to the number of nurses who leave it.”

Other key findings from the report:

  • The highest vacancy rate reported by hospitals was advanced practice nurses (APNs) at 9.7 percent. Nearly 1 in 10 of these positions were reported as vacant in a Wisconsin hospital.
  • The second highest vacancy rate is licensed practical nurses (LPNs) at 8.8 percent in hospitals. This rate is nearly double that of 2013, and for the first time in more than five years, it surpasses the vacancy rate of CNAs.

  • The vacancy rate for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) at 7.1 percent is also higher than most other occupations, and it is increasingly difficult for hospitals to fill these positions. CNAs are entry- level positions that often serve as the first step on a career ladder toward being a registered nurse or other health care professional. The CNA vacancy rate in urban areas is nearly twice as high as in rural settings. This is most likely attributed to the concentration of employers competing to fill entry-level positions in urban areas.

  • Rural hospitals find it is more difficult to fill occupational and physical therapy positions than do their counterparts in urban areas.

In spite of all the staffing challenges intrinsic to providing high-quality, accessible care around the clock, Wisconsin health care continues to be ranked among the best in the nation.

“Wisconsin is well-positioned to thrive in the health care environment that is taking shape, thanks to the dedicated health care professionals who are finding new and innovative ways to leverage their skills individually and with other professionals to improve care, reduce cost and increase access,” according to WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding.


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