William Miller, MD
Healthcare Staffing Shortage Remains a Challenge Across the US
Updated: Nov 23, 2022
On October 4th, I reported on the national shortage of healthcare workers and how this affects us locally. Six months ago, when I wrote about it, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that there were over 290,000 unfilled healthcare positions across the country and it was predicted that this would increase by another 35,000 by the end of 2021, with 1/3 of the total being in registered nurses. Unfortunately, these estimates were off by a large margin. The American Hospital Association (AHA) reported in January that the actual shortage at yearend was closer to 600,000, mostly nurses, and they predict another 500,000 healthcare worker jobs will be vacant by the end of 2022, bringing the potential total to 1.1 million. AHA has called the ballooning shortage of nurses in America “a crisis that demands immediate action.”
There are many reasons for this. First, as the population ages with “baby boomers” moving now from their 70’s into their 80’s, there is an increasing need for more healthcare and thus more job openings are being created to meet that need. At the same time, young people entering the work force have tended to avoid healthcare related jobs, going into more tech and software jobs. According to the AHA, in 2017, more than half of nurses were age 50 and older and almost 30% were age 60 and older. Now, five years later, many of these nurses are retiring.
COVID burn-out is also playing a big role. US News and World Report stated in an article from November that 60% to 75% of clinicians and nurses are reporting higher than normal levels of stress resulting in depression, exhaustion, sleep disorders and PTSD. The cost of burn-out in healthcare workers is estimated to be $4.6 billion per year.
Here on the Coast, we continue to feel the pinch. For several months, the hospital has been forced to limit the number of available beds due to staffing. Both Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC) and Adventist Health Medical Offices report long wait times to get an appointment due to a need for more providers. The shortage of clerical and other support staff has resulted in longer wait times to get referrals processed or even just answer phones.
“This shortage impacts the entire patient experience,” said Judy Leach, the administrator for Adventist Health (AH) on the Coast. “We are committed to ensure that we have excellent team members from housekeeping to food service to nursing. We encourage local community members to join our team. This is all about neighbors taking care of neighbors.”
A career fair is being held on Thursday, March 24th from noon to 5:00 at the hospital for positions in both the hospital and AH clinic. “We did a previous job fair last fall that was very successful. We were able to hire 12 people that day. Since then, we have been hiring a dozen new people each month to become members of the Adventist Health Mendocino Coast team,” Leach said. “We encourage local community members to join our team that is committed to quality, a team that creates a culture of compassion and responsiveness. Adventist offers great incentives, benefits, and competitive wages. At the end of the day, this is all about improving the lives of others.”
Sherwood Oaks Nursing Home, now under the new ownership and management of Lucy Xie, is limited in its efforts to regrow by the lack of available nurses. “We are aggressively recruiting and are offering a large relocation bonus to help attract nurses to move to the Coast,” Xie said. “We pay competitive wages and have an attractive benefits package that includes a 401k retirement plan with matching,” she added.
“Mendocino Coast Clinics provides a full range of benefits and attractive salaries,” said Karen Arnold, Human Resources Director at MCC, “We are very flexible with requests for time off since we recognize the importance of work-life balance.” MCC offers formal, on the job training in several support roles that can lead to certification. The clinic was accredited in 2015 as a Patient-Centered Medical Home, which means they use a team-based approach that puts the patient at the center of the team.
Having said all of this, many of us feel that a career in healthcare is still extremely rewarding. Rebecca Yaffe, RN, decided to change careers from being a cabinet maker and go into nursing later in life. At age 40, she went back to school and got her nursing degree through Mendocino College’s Nursing Program in Ukiah in 2017. Now she works as a nurse on the medical-surgical unit in the hospital.
“I find it very rewarding to be part of a team working to improve healthcare,” Yaffe said. “Feeling like I am making an important contribution to our community sustains me despite the challenges.” A scholarship through the local Mendocino College Foundation helped her pay her way through school. For more information on how to apply for a scholarship or make a donation to the Foundation, visit their website at https://foundation.mendocino.edu.
Another source of local support is through the Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation (MCHF) which offers several healthcare scholarships. “While most scholarships cover just books and tuition, we found that there are many other challenges faced by our local scholars wanting to get a higher education,” said Mary Kate McKenna, Executive Director of MCHF. “Things like travel expenses to the Ukiah campus, hotel stays over there, childcare expenses, and even just food. Many students are trying to work part-time while going to school and perhaps even support a family. That is why we call it our RN Student Support Fund because it is the community coming together to support the student.” MCHF offers three more programs: the Inspire Scholarship for local high school students interested in going into healthcare, the Future Scholarship once a student is accepted into a nursing program, and the Now Scholarship which is for current health professionals who desire to advance in their careers by getting additional education. “We have even been able to help new healthcare hires find housing in the community,” McKenna added. For more information about MCHF, how to apply for a scholarship or to donate a gift of support visit their website at www.MCHFoundation.org.
Here is a listing of some of the current job openings on the Coast. Many of these are available with on-the-job training, so you can get a job even if you are new to healthcare and have no previous experience or training. Such positions are indicated below with an *.
Adventist Health Mendocino Coast Hospital, Ft. Bragg: EMT, nurses aide*, housekeeper*, surgery tech, radiology tech, ultrasound tech, home health aide*, home health RN, clinical lab scientists, phlebotomists*, manager/supervisors, access coordinator*, RNs (med-surg, ICU, OR), dietician, physical therapy assistant, registration clerk*, billing receptionist*, patient account representative. https://www.adventisthealth.org/mendocino-coast/about-us/current-openings/
Adventist Health Mendocino Medical Offices, Ft. Bragg: medical assistants*, access coordinators*, medical records technicians*. Also, primary care providers, internal medicine physician, orthopedic surgeon and gastroenterologist. https://www.adventisthealth.org/mendocino-coast/about-us/current-openings/
Mendocino Coast Clinics, Ft. Bragg: receptionists*, office float*, nurses (RN or LVN), family nurse practitioner, primary care doctor and pediatrician. www.mccinc.org or Facebook page.