7 stats that show healthcare workforce staffing challenges

Staffing strains have affected hospitals and health systems across the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are seven data points showing workforce shortages and how they affect hospitals, as cited in an American Hospital Association data brief shared with Becker's Nov. 2:

1. Since February 2020, hospital employment has declined by nearly 94,000, including a decrease of more than 8,000 between August 2021 and September 2021, according to an Altarum analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data through September.

2. Between 2019 and 2020, there was an increase in job vacancies for nursing personnel of up to 30 percent, according to an analysis of American Hospital Association survey data.

3. Staff turnover caused by COVID-19 pressures has increased from 18 percent to 30 percent for some hospital departments (e.g., emergency, intensive care units and nursing), according to an analysis released in October by Premier, a group purchasing organization that works with more than 4,400 hospitals and health systems in the U.S.

4. Amid increased demand for healthcare workers, an analysis of data provided by labor market data company Emsi found that there will be a critical shortage of 3.2 million healthcare workers by 2026.

5. The analysis of workforce data released in October by Premier found that staffing shortages have cost hospitals $24 billion during the pandemic; an additional $3 billion was spent acquiring personal protective equipment for workers.

6. Credit rating agency Moody's, in an October report, forecasted that labor shortages from the pandemic will continue to worsen hospitals' financial performance into 2022 because of wage inflation, the use of expensive contract nurse staffing firms, and the expansion of hospital worker benefits to retain employees.

7. According to credit rating agency Fitch Ratings, nonprofit hospitals — particularly lower-rated, smaller hospitals — will continue to grapple with staffing shortages even post pandemic. Labor expenses (salaries and benefits) are the largest expense category for hospitals, according to Fitch, and between February 2020 and August 2021, average hourly hospital wages increased by 8.5 percent.

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