ST. LOUIS — Missouri’s nursing workforce has grown over the previous two years, in line with a brand new report, a hopeful signal for hospitals and nursing houses recovering from the worst staffing shortages of the COVID-19 pandemic. However regardless of these positive aspects, specialists and hospital leaders say, the numbers aren’t rising quick sufficient.
St. Louis-area well being techniques are working with nursing faculties so as to add college and arrange scholarships. They’re adopting tech-based staffing applications that intention to draw employees by providing extra versatile schedules. And they’re shifting a number of the day-to-day affected person care duties from nurses to assist roles.
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“Now we have seen our core nurses improve. We’re beginning to see form of a stabilization interval. We’re seeing new graduates,” mentioned Robyn Weilbacher, chief nursing officer of Mercy Hospital St. Louis. “I really feel very hopeful, however … there’s nonetheless a scarcity.”
Mercy Hospital St. Louis alone has about 200 nurse vacancies, she mentioned.
In the meantime, the demand for care is rising because the inhabitants ages, and as medical developments permit suppliers to do extra for his or her sufferers, mentioned Dave Dillon, spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Affiliation.
Even when sufficient nursing faculties graduated sufficient nurses every year to exchange all of those that retired, Dillon mentioned, “you’d nonetheless be shedding floor.”
The nursing board report means that well being care faces a comparable problem to different employers: With a low unemployment fee, there’s a small pool of employees to rent from. The report discovered that simply 4% of licensed nurses within the state are unemployed and looking for work — and three% are employed in a discipline apart from nursing.
“I believe we’re in a restoration section,” mentioned Tommye Austin, chief nurse government for BJC HealthCare.
The report discovered 80 nurses per 10,000 residents in rural counties, in contrast with 166 nurses per 10,000 residents in metropolitan counties. That is up from charges of 77 and 156 per 10,000, respectively, in 2020.
Half of those that had been unemployed mentioned they weren’t working due to house and household obligations, which could counsel employers ought to have a look at methods to assist potential hires stability work and private tasks, mentioned Lori Scheidt, government director of the Missouri State Board of Nursing.
Over the previous few years well being techniques have adopted extra versatile work choices, utilizing apps that work within the spirit of the “gig employee” mannequin popularized by Uber. In 2020, SSM Well being began utilizing CareRev, a platform that enables prequalified well being care employees to select up shifts. In 2021, Mercy started piloting its personal app, “Mercy Works on Demand.” Mercy first examined it at its hospital in Springfield, and later expanded it throughout all the well being system.
Mercy discovered that this system appealed to nurses who needed to work, however wanted extra versatile schedules. Some had been near retirement and needed to work fewer hours, however they don’t seem to be able to cease altogether.
At Mercy’s 5 St. Louis-area hospitals, there are actually greater than 200 gig employees, Weilbacher mentioned, lots of them college students, individuals within the navy, and individuals who have labored previously as journey nurses.
On Tuesday, BJC will start piloting an app at Missouri Baptist Medical Middle and Christian Hospital that may permit nurses to pick out out there shifts on their telephones.
“It is time to innovate,” Austin mentioned. “How we carried out nursing earlier than the pandemic is just not how we are able to proceed to carry out nursing sooner or later.”
Austin mentioned she thinks there are additionally alternatives to look throughout the group, and assist affected person care technicians turn out to be licensed sensible nurses or registered nurses.
“It is not simply nursing,” Austin mentioned. “There’s shortages with meals service employees. There’s shortages with environmental companies employees. And when there’s shortages in these areas, they influence nursing, as a result of then that burden falls on the nursing workers.”
In comparison with 2020, the nursing board report confirmed will increase within the variety of nurses working in each city and rural areas. Nonetheless, “it isn’t rising as quick because it must,” Scheidt mentioned.
Due to shortages of school, Scheidt mentioned most nursing applications aren’t at full enrollment. In 2021, there have been 8,000 seats out there in nursing applications statewide, however solely about 6,100 new college students had been admitted, Scheidt mentioned.
“We have been in a position to transfer the needle on that a bit of bit,” she mentioned, by grants for nursing faculties and applications that practice highschool college students to be licensed sensible nurses. However there’s extra work to be completed.
An annual workforce report launched by the Missouri Hospital Affiliation in Might discovered workers turnover in hospitals had hit an all-time excessive. It additionally confirmed emptiness in registered nurse positions in hospitals at 20%, the best stage within the 21 years of the survey — and up from 10% in 2019 and 12% in 2021.