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Arkansas hospitals are facing a critical staffing shortage that is only exacerbating the profound financial volatility they are facing.
A new report issued by Global Data, commissioned by the Arkansas Hospital Association (AHA), reveals that the shortage of health care workers in many specialties is anticipated to continue or worsen over time, as increasing needs continue to exceed the supply of professionals. The current shortfall of 9,000 registered nurses in Arkansas will not be resolved by 2035 without intervention, and the licensed practical nurse (LPN) workforce would need to grow by an additional 55 LPN full-time employees per year above anticipated status quo growth to maintain current Arkansas use patterns. By 2035, there will be a shortfall of approximately 240 to 580 respiratory therapists to meet the projected demand. Other specialties showing shortfalls include physician assistants, phlebotomists, clinical laboratory technicians, and emergency medical technicians.
In response to this analysis, the AHA is taking the initiative now to advocate for several key strategies to stabilize and grow Arkansas’s health care workforce, including expanding the workforce pipeline for the occupations facing the greatest shortages, building heartier workforce retention programs, developing new models of care, expanding training programs into communities with the greatest need, improving data collection, and advocating for policy changes that will support a more robust pipeline.
“Hospitals in Arkansas faced workforce challenges even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the situation is now alarming,” says Bo Ryall, President & CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association. “These projected shortfalls pose a significant threat to the health and wellness of our communities and, frankly, to the stability of our state. We must not take our excellent health care workforce for granted.
“The plain facts presented by this report offer us a starting point to begin to address the need – more urgent by the month – to build up our pipeline of health care professionals,” Ryall continued. “This problem will not be solved quickly or by hospitals alone, but we owe to the coming generations to take aggressive action to meet this challenge.”