A $10 million request and a new coalition take aim at health care worker shortage

By: - January 13, 2023 3:40 pm
Medical form and stethoscope

Around 7 million people are likely at risk of being kicked off Medicaid due the end of pandemic-era benefits, according to early estimates from federal officials. (Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Twenty weighty health and educational entities have teamed up to put a full court press on solving the shortage of health care workers in Nebraska.

Early conversations among the new “Nebraska Healthcare Workforce Collaborative” have led to a $10 million request to the state for expanded clinical training sites for nurses.

Such sites — where students get hands-on training under the tutelage of seasoned professionals — are a critical step toward filling nursing jobs faster, said Jeremy Nordquist, president of the Nebraska Hospital Association and co-chair of the new collaborative.

Yet the workforce shortage has led to a bottleneck of sorts in the clinical training process, he said.

State Sen. Jana Hughes of Seward (Courtesy of Craig Chandler)

State Sen. Jana Hughes of Seward said she intends to introduce a  bill Tuesday to allocate the funding. Hughes, whose daughter just graduated as a nurse, said she is concerned about labor gaps in numerous industries, including health care.

In part, her bill would offer financial incentives for nurses to become faculty that could help train budding nurses at clinical sites.

A longer-term project to be undertaken by the new Healthcare Workforce Collaborative calls for extensive employer and worksite surveys. Data collected would arm teaching institutions with better data on workforce gaps, trends and future labor demands in medical-related fields.

“Taking a larger step back and putting together a statewide plan has really been missing — and we’re kind of paying for it right now,” Nordquist said.

Participants in the collaborative said in a statement that the state’s labor shortage continues to be the most pressing issue for hospitals and health care providers. They said it is particularly worrisome for rural areas of Nebraska.

“We aim to break through traditional barriers and present real solutions to Nebraska’s policymakers,” said Jed Hansen, executive director of Nebraska Rural Health Association and also co-chair of the collaborative.

Jeremy Nordquist (Courtesy of Nebraska Hospital Association)

Said Nordquist: “The challenge is too big for one organization to solve on their own.”

Statistics waving a red flag:

Nebraska is headed for a shortage of 5,435 nurses by 2025, according to the Nebraska Center for Nursing. Of the state’s 93 counties, 73 have less than the national average ratio of registered nurses to patients; nine have no registered nurses; and four have just one.

As for physicians, 58 of the state’s 93 counties have been designated as “shortage areas” for family physicians, and all but two have been designated as shortage areas for at least one type of primary care specialty, said Amy Reynoldson, executive vice president of the Nebraska Medical Association. 

The collaborative represents fields ranging from behavioral health to pharmacy. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce also is a part.

Participants plan to look at state policies and explore other ways to address the workforce problems.

“Inadequate funding, burdensome regulations, inflationary wages and Nebraska’s consistently low unemployment rate create the perfect storm for workforce challenges in Nebraska’s nursing homes and assisted living communities,” said Jalene Carpenter, president and CEO of the Nebraska Health Care Association, which is part of the coalition.

Nebraska Healthcare Workforce Collaborative members:

Nebraska Hospital Association (co-chair)

Nebraska Rural Health Association (co-chair)

Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska

Bryan College of Health Sciences

Clarkson College

Creighton University

Health Center Association of Nebraska

Metropolitan Community College

Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations

Nebraska Center for Nursing

Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Nebraska Community College Association

Nebraska Health Care Association

Nebraska Medical Association

Nebraska Methodist College

Nebraska Nurses Association

Nebraska Pharmacists Association

Nebraska State College System

University of Nebraska Medical Center

University of Nebraska System

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.