Minnesota Hospital Association


May 01, 2012

Health care workforce

The relationship between the patient and the health care professional is at the core of health care delivery. The men and women that care for patients every day demonstrate the hard work, compassion and dedication that allow Minnesota hospitals and health systems to provide access to high-quality care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Minnesota health care workforce is also an important component in our economic engine. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Minnesota hospitals provided 214,108 (direct + indirect) jobs in 2010. This translated into $11.2 billion in wages and salaries (direct + indirect) and a $27.2 billion value to the state's economy.

One of the Minnesota Hospital Association's (MHA) top priorities is helping members ensure an adequate workforce. Some of these efforts include offering an online workforce planning tool; member education in workforce-related areas; forging partnerships with other stakeholders; and standing committees devoted to workforce development, nursing and physician leadership issues.

Attracting and retaining a talented workforce is an ongoing challenge and one that will become more acute as the workforce ages, demand for services increases, and the overall labor pool beings to shrink.

Work force challenges on the supply side include:

  • From 2006-2016, 15.6 million jobs will be offered, but the civilian labor force will increase by only 12.8 million persons according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • By 2015 there will be a deficit of 62,900 physicians (all specialities) and that shortage is likely to double by 2025.
  • Nearly one-third of all physicians will retire over the next decade.
  • The U.S. nursing shortage is projected to grow to 260,000 registered nurses by 2025.
  • Approximately one-third of the nursing workforce is older than the age of 50.
  • Students graduating from a public medial school average about $145,000 in debt, and $180,000 for students graduating from a private medical school. These debt loads cause many to consider alternative career paths.

Workforce challenges on the demand side include:

  • An aging population - the first of the baby boomers turned 65 in Jan. 2011 and 78 million baby boomers will reach 65 by 2030.
  • Thirty-two million people are expected to be newly insured by 2014 as a result of federal health care reform.

Matching solutions to challenges in workforce supply is not a straightforward process. Experts continue to analyze and debate if shortages are due to maldistribution of providers instead of insufficient numbers; and, how health care reform, new team-based care delivery models, and emerging technologies will impact future workforce needs. Consequently, experts also question if health care providers are being training with the right skills set and if those that are currently practicing are using their skills to their full potential.

Hospitals and health systems are taking steps to address the workforce challenge; however this complex problem cannot be solved by the provider community alone. The federal government will continue to play a critical role in the support of an adequate health care workforce.

Graduate medical education

Some federal policymakers have considered significant reductions in graduate medical education (GME), indirect medical education (IME), and Children's Hospital GME payments. These cuts were considered on top of the 15-year freeze in the number of physician training positions funded by Medicare that is already in place. At the state level, Minnesota hospitals that help train tomorrow's workforce already face a 45-percent reduction to Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC) - the program that supports training and residencies for physicians, pharmacists, dentists, and advance practice nurses, physician assistants and chiropractors.

Federal and state programs that support training and residencies are critical as the nation prepares for a challenging shortage of health care professionals, the effects of an aging population, and the influx of newly insured individuals.

Statistics demonstrate that the health care professionals that we train in Minnesota are likely to stay in Minnesota. Our cold winter climate contributes to unique recruiting challenges. In 2011, about half of the medical students graduated from the University of Minnesota completed residencies in Minnesota, and of those about 72 percent stayed to practice in our communities. Minnesota's teaching hospitals need federal and state support to ensure that we do not remain a net exporter of physicians.

Workforce staffing

Many factors influence a hospital's staffing plan to ensure patients receive the highest quality of care possible. These factors include the experience and education of the staff on hand, the availability of other caregivers, patients' individual needs and the severity of their illness, and the availability of certain technology. In addition, hospitals must take into account overall workforce shortage projections and the expectation that more patients will be entering the health care system. For these reasons, flexible work-staff planning is important to ensure that hospitals and health systems can continue to provide access to high quality care of the patients and communities.