WHA report details changing hospital workforce

The Wisconsin Hospital Association released its 2013 Health Care Workforce Report this week.

 
The report shows that in Wisconsin, there is a high demand for advanced practice professionals (APPs), such as physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners. It also shows that the state’s hospital workforce is getting older, with more over-55 employees than ever before. 

“The recession reshaped the health care landscape,” said Judy Warmuth, vice president of workforce at the WHA. “At one time, health care workers expected to retire in their late 50s; now, the economy has caused these folks to stay in the workforce longer. Many hospitals are reporting that at least 20 percent of the people working in some areas of the hospital are over 55.”

The report also says that one-third of registered nurses (RNs) in Wisconsin are over 55. Registered nurses are Wisconsin’s largest hospital occupation, with more than 15,500 full-time and 16,000 part-time RNs in the state.

“We have an aging Wisconsin population – people that use health care – and an aging workforce, and that’s a risk we really need to address,” said Warmuth.

Warmuth said there is a need for employers to think differently about older employees in hospitals. Things like poor lighting, longer hallways and the size of print on medical forms can pose problems for in the inpatient environment, she said.

The report also showed demand for APPs has never been higher. According to the WHA press release, “Evidence is mounting that the predicted shortage of primary care physicians is being partially addressed by incorporating APPs into hospitals and clinics. The reported 2012 vacancy rate of 7.6 percent for advanced practice nurses and physician assistants is the highest reported by hospitals in the annual WHA hospital personnel survey.” 

The role of primary care physicians as the Affordable Care Act continues to be implemented is another factor in the changing hospital workforce, but is “not a short term issue as much as a long-term issue,” said Warmuth.

The full WHA report can be found here.

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