Data from a report commissioned by the association — which represents the state’s 60 nonprofit hospitals and health systems — estimates a current shortage of 5,000 full-time registered nurses and 4,000 licensed practical practical statewide.
Without intervention, that shortage could double or triple by 2035, according to the report from the data analytics company Global Data.
The largest health care system in Frederick hasn’t escaped the consequences of the statewide shortage.
During the 2022 fiscal year — July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022 — Frederick Health had a 24% turnover rate among registered nurses, said Chris Bumbaugh, vice president of human resources at the health system.
That’s double what it was during the 2020 fiscal year, which started before the pandemic. The staff turnover rate at the health system overall increased from 15.7% during the 2020 fiscal year to 26% during the 2022 fiscal year.
Turnover includes people who leave their positions, retire, go back to school and switch jobs at Frederick Health, health system spokesman Joshua Faust wrote in a text message.
“That’s definitely been a challenge,” Bumbaugh said. “Not only to retain, but to recruit at the same time.”
The percentage of vacant staff positions in the health system also doubled during the pandemic, from 6% in fiscal year 2020 to 12% in fiscal year 2022.
That’s lower than the state’s overall hospital staff member vacancy rate, which was 21.2% as of Dec. 31, according to the Maryland Hospital Association’s report.
Frederick Health saw an increase in staff members retiring, including taking early retirement, during the pandemic, Bumbaugh said. The health system also lost clinical staff members to travel nurse positions.
Losing long-tenured staff members, while doing the same amount of caregiving work with fewer people, has been hard for employees at the health system, Bumbaugh said.
Sixty-two percent of nursing Maryland Board of Nursing license and certificate holders have thought about leaving recently, according to a study cited in the Maryland Hospital Association’s report.
For nearly 40% of responses, feeling overworked, burned out and underappreciated was the number one reason.
Staffing shortages is not a new problem for Maryland hospitals, said Nicole Stallings, chief external affairs officer for the Maryland Hospital Association.
Four years ago, hospital executives started listing “workforce” as a top challenge for their facilities when coming by the association, Stallings said. They described early retirement, interest in competing industries and an aging workforce as reasons contributing to shortages.
“All of these things came to a head right on top of COVID,” Stallings said. “Working tirelessly for two and a half years has also put additional stressors on an already strained health care workforce.”
The association’s report, released on Monday, recommends hospitals and policymakers focus on four areas when addressing the shortage:
- expanding the state’s workforce pipeline
- removing barriers to health care education
- Retain the health care workforce
- exploring new care models.
To recruit more staff members, Frederick Health has hosted more job fairs, including in-person events at the hospital and Frederick Health Village and events online, Bumbaugh said.
The health system also recently hired a workforce development specialist, who focused on working with colleges and universities in the area to build pipelines to staffing clinical roles.
To retain employees, Bumbaugh said, Frederick Health has offered bonuses to staff members and working with them to create “career maps” for progress from one role to another inside the health system.
Last month brought a hopeful sign for Frederick Health, Bumbaugh said. It had a lower July turnover rate than it had in two years.
The Maryland Hospital Association knows the shortage won’t be fixed in a year, Stallings said. It will also require the help of people who don’t work in hospitals.
“We are looking for immediate collective and sustainable solutions for these problems,” she said. “And we hope to have the full support of policymakers and the business community and more, because this is so critical to the health of our communities, to the health of our economy and to the health of our state.”
Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @24_angier