Health Care and Human Resources

Health care providers struggle to fill jobs

Compounding the problem is that many doctors and nurses are reaching retirement age.

March 15, 2013
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LANSING — Health care providers are having trouble hiring even though undergraduate degrees in health fields have doubled over the past eight years at the state’s 15 public universities.

In fact, there’s not only a strong demand for health professionals across the state, but nationally, said Michigan Health Council President Anne Rosewarne.

“We are very sure that there is some shortage,” Rosewarne said.

Although there are more than 4,000 health care bachelor degrees earned each year at Michigan’s public universities, qualified candidates remain in demand, Rosewarne said.

“Competition isn’t an issue,” Rosewarne said, “Most human resource departments have a really, really hard time finding candidates.”

Tracey Burtch, a public affairs manager at the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, said the industry employs more than 558,000 people in the state, but a large number of physicians and nurses are reaching retirement age.

“The demand for health care workers continues to rise significantly due to an aging population and an increasing number of retiring health care workers,” Burtch said.

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said Michigan had 140,248 registered nurses, 27,676 practical nurses, 13,448 pharmacists, 32,866 medical doctors, 7,107 osteopathic physicians and 7,452 dentists as of March 1.

Diane Lacey, a human resources representative at Forest View Psychiatric Hospital in Grand Rapids, also said there is still a high demand for health professionals in West Michigan, particularly nursing positions.

For example, there are 249 jobs available at Spectrum Health hospitals in Grand Rapids, 144 of which are nursing jobs, according to Spectrum’s job-listing website.

Anne Veltema, a college and community relations consultant at Spectrum Health, said, “Finding top talent is the goal of every recruiter at Spectrum Health. Our recruiters aren’t looking to simply fill positions. They are looking for the right candidate for a particular opportunity.

“We provide care to patients in multiple settings including hospitals, primary care practices, specialty clinics, skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers,” she said.

Veltema said rehabilitation therapists — physical, speech and occupational — nurses and information technology specialists are in highest demand.

“It’s important to note that our work force includes both clinical and non-clinical employees,” Veltema said. “There are many career opportunities in health care that don’t include patient contact, yet are a vital part of the health care system.”

Careers in finance, information technology, social work and strategic planning generally require no patient contact.

New House and Senate bills, sponsored by 39 representatives and six senators, would require each hospital in the state to develop and implement a staffing plan that provides sufficient, qualified nursing personnel to meet the needs of their patients.

Hospitals that fail to submit an annual staffing plan for every unit could be fined $10,000 for each violation under the proposal.

Sponsors include Reps. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, Collene Lamonte, D-Montague, Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, and Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor.

Rosewarne said that, due to the lack of national data on the demand for doctors and nurses, the Institute of Medicine in Washington is collecting information to determine the number of professionals needed in the field. The data will help determine the specific demand for health professionals in Michigan, she said.

Meanwhile, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington reported health care systems “are struggling to identify the adequate mix of health care professionals necessary to meet the needs of current and future patient populations.”

Number of Michigan licensed professionals in some health care fields:

Dental Hygienist 10,216
Occupational therapist 6,679
Optometrist 1,645
Pharmacist 13,448
Psychologist 2,916
Physical therapist 9,461
Speech-language pathologist 861
Physician assistant 4,084

Credit: Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

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