An 'unsustainable' trend: Turnover at Missouri hospitals hits record high

Missouri hospitals experienced unprecedented levels of turnover and vacancy in 2021, indicative of a "full-blown crisis in hospital staffing," according to a report released May 25 by the state hospital association.

The report highlights short-and long-term workforce challenges among 128 Missouri hospitals. It is based on data on 32 hospital and clinic-based positions, using information reported by the hospitals for 2021. 

"The pandemic was highly disruptive to the hospital workforce," Jon Doolittle, Missouri Hospital Association president and CEO, said in a news release. "As we exited 2021, the indications of a full-blown crisis in hospital staffing were emerging. This year's report includes several categories of essential front-line caregivers at record levels of vacancy. At the same time, many of the jobs that support hospital operations — housekeeping services and dietary aides, for example — were experiencing astronomical rates of turnover. These trends are more than unprecedented; they are unsustainable."

Six findings from the report:

1. The vacancy rate among all professions surveyed reached 17 percent in Missouri in 2021, an 87 percent increase in vacancies since 2020.

2. The turnover rate among professions surveyed reached 24.7 percent last year, compared to 21.5 percent in the 2021 report and 19.8 percent in the 2020 report.

3. Three nursing positions — including staff registered nurse — are among the top five professions with the highest employee vacancy.

4. Staff nurse vacancy was 19.8 percent in the report, up from 12 percent in last year’s report. That's the highest number in the 21-year history of the Missouri Hospital Association's survey.

5. Staff nurse turnover increased from 18.1 percent to 22.1 percent between the 2021 report and the 2022 report.

6. Vacancies among certified respiratory therapists grew 90 percent in the 2022 report compared to the previous year. 

Mr. Doolittle attributed hospitals' workforce challenges to numerous factors, including burnout and fatigue from COVID-19, attractive salaries for agency work in Missouri and nationally, and departures from the hospital labor force. 

To read the full report, click here

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