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5 Workforce Challenges Facing U.S. Hospitals

AHA Brief Outlines Workforce Pressures, Health Care Needs during Pandemic

January 25, 2022

The American Hospital Association (AHA) hosted a media briefing today highlighting the workforce challenges facing U.S. hospitals as the pandemic approaches its third year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained the nation’s health care system. During the briefing, the AHA and hospital leaders across the country emphasized the ways the pandemic has affected our nation’s caregivers and the importance of providing support to protect our health care workforce now and into the future.

Supporting the health care workforce was a priority long before the pandemic, and “these challenges have only grown more acute,” the AHA said in a data brief released today.

“Our nation simply does not have enough clinicians to care for patients today and not enough are in the training pipeline for the future,” AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said.

In the new data brief, the AHA provided a snapshot of the workforce challenges facing the nation’s hospitals. Here are five key takeaways:

  • Workforce Shortages:  About 31 percent of hospitals that reported data on staffing to the federal government indicated that they were anticipating a critical staffing shortage during the week of January 19
  • Rising Patient acuity:  Average patient length of stay has increased 8.8 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels and 9.5 percent between October 2021 and November 2021, according to recent Kaufman Hall analysis
  • Vacancy rates:  The registered nurse vacancy rate is about 10 percent and a third (35.8%) of hospitals reported a vacancy rate exceeding 10 percent
  • Contract labor:  About 95 percent of facilities reported using temporary allied staffing, according to a survey by AMN Healthcare
  • Increasing Costs:  Labor expenses are up 19.5 percent on a per adjusted discharge basis compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Kaufman Hall analysis

“For many hospitals around the country this has led to an unsustainable situation that threatens their ability to care for the patients and communities they serve,” the AHA brief notes.

HAP will continue to advocate on behalf of our members to support Pennsylvania’s health care workforce. Through the Health Care Talent Task Force, HAP is guiding the development of strategies that will help attract and retain the health care talent pool in Pennsylvania.

The AHA’s data brief is available to review online.

For more information about HAP’s workforce efforts, contact Jeffrey Bechtel, HAP’s senior vice president, health economics and policy, or Mary Marshall, HAP’s director, workforce and professional development.