FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA) held a press conference in November to shed light on critical workforce challenges facing the industry, highlight key partnerships that have been formed to understand and fill talent needs, and share recommendations on how to move forward to ensure hospitals can provide the best care for communities across the Commonwealth.
During the event, KHA released new reports that show an immediate need for talent across entire hospital systems and project increasing shortfalls in the coming years.
The 2023 KHA Workforce Survey found there are 12,790 vacancies, or a 15.3% vacancy rate, of full-time equivalent employees across Kentucky’s hospital systems.
The significant shortage of nurses in Kentucky is increasingly prevalent as this profession makes up the largest population of direct care providers in hospitals. The study shows an estimated vacancy rate of 19.1% for registered nurses, 20.7% for licensed practical nurses, and 16.9% for nursing assistants across hospitals.
Kentucky’s aging population is a root cause of workforce challenges, especially in the healthcare industry. The survey found that there are over 3,300 nurses who are over the age of 55, and that group is projected to retire within the next 10 years. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that Kentucky’s working-age population is shrinking and the commonwealth’s workforce participation rate is among the lowest in the nation.
KHA President Nancy Galvagni said that although the struggle for the workforce is a national issue, Kentucky has been particularly hit hard. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, she said hospitals have experienced increased difficulty in recruiting staff into the nursing profession.
To address these shortages for the short and long term, KHA has developed a strategic partnership with the Kentucky Chamber Foundation through its Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) program to hire regional managers dedicated to addressing workforce needs within the hospital industry.
Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts highlighted the goals of the partnership to enhance K-12 exposure and experience in the hospital environment, strengthen collaboration to enhance postsecondary training programs and identify and share regional best practices between hospitals to support critical jobs needed in the industry.
Since the initiative began earlier this year, she shared that the TPM regional managers have already engaged 77% of hospitals and 90 partner organizations across Kentucky.
“We know how critical this is not just to the business community, and not just because of our workforce problems, but because of the health of our communities and our citizens,” said Watts.
This collaborative effort sets the standard for how to address all workforce issues, said Sen. Steve Meredith, a former hospital CEO, during the event. He said the legislature looks forward to working together to address this issue.