Since the rise of COVID-19, PYA has seen many healthcare clients struggle with staffing shortages as frontline workers are facing burnout from increased demands of the pandemic. These demands can result in lasting emotional, mental, and physical distress, as hospital staff endure long hours, exhaustion, and threats to physical safety, in the face of bed shortages and rising death tolls. These increased demands on healthcare workers have led to more resignations and early retirement.
The exit of many healthcare workers early on in the pandemic and the rise of new COVID-19 variants are among the many factors contributing to the severe shortage of healthcare staff, especially nurses, for hospitals nationwide. The American Nurses Association (ANA) referred to it as a “crisis-level human resource shortage” in a September 2021 letter to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Shortages in employment are impacting patient care and forcing healthcare facilities, professional organizations, universities, and state governments to identify new courses of action.
Hospitals have been able to alleviate some staffing shortages by increasing both salaries and the use of contract workers. However, with the new Omicron variant and a new wave of COVID-19, shortages in staff are expected to continue or worsen. Amid this crisis, continued efforts for changes and advancements in education, technology, healthcare, and public policy could offer support and solutions for healthcare organizations. In this Insight, we will take a look at the way one state, Kentucky, is handling the critical nursing shortage.
On December 9, 2021, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced a State of Emergency related to the state’s current nursing shortage during the pandemic. According to the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA), Kentucky is operating between 12% and 20% short of its nursing need. Beshear released an executive order, resulting in many new requirements for both nursing programs and the Kentucky Board of Nursing, in order to alleviate the nursing shortage burdening the state’s healthcare systems. Some of the requirements included in the executive order are summarized below.
- The Kentucky Board of Nursing and its staff must approve a request for increased enrollment for nursing programs that demonstrate sufficient resources.
- All nursing programs must compile a list of faculty needed to achieve full enrollment.
- Nursing programs must report vacancies monthly to the Kentucky Board of Nursing. The Board of Nursing must then publish a list of vacancies in nursing programs on its website.
- The executive order calls for the creation of the Kentucky Nursing Advisory Committee with representation from universities, professional healthcare organizations, and urban and rural healthcare systems.
Along with the requirements listed in the executive order, more national guard members may be called into Kentucky to assist with the nursing shortage as COVID cases rise. State government officials have also discussed providing additional federal relief funding to healthcare organizations in Kentucky in 2022.
Kentucky’s executive order focuses heavily on the ways nursing programs and the Kentucky Board of Nursing can help the nursing shortage. Hospitals around the nation are also working to improve the healthcare staffing shortage in the following ways:
- Increasing the use of contract workers, including travel nurses
- Increasing salaries
- Offering signing bonuses
- Increasing retention bonuses
- Maintaining focus on improving workforce safety
How PYA Can Help
Since the pandemic’s onset, PYA has bolstered its team of experienced professionals to help hospitals and health systems with the resulting immediate critical issues they are facing—from helping organizations apply for Provider Relief Funds to deciphering the ever-changing regulatory guidance and latest state and federal legislation. If you would like assistance with strategies for addressing staffing shortages; any other COVID-19-related issues; or matters involving compliance, valuation, or strategy and integration, one of our executive contacts would be happy to assist. You may email them below, or call (800) 270-9629. You can also visit PYA’s COVID-19 hub.