Healthcare CEO Urges Citizens to Address Practitioner Shortage

By Jim Culhane, President and CEO

Your healthcare will be getting worse….

The healthcare system, as we know it, is moving towards collapse. I know this sounds shocking – but to people in the industry, and to many people who have accessed healthcare systems in the last year, it shouldn’t be. 

At nearly every meeting I attend, either within my organization, or with other Visiting Nurse Associations, or with our partner hospitals and providers, this is the topic we discuss … healthcare is moving from struggling to failing.

The primary problem is not as complicated as you would think. To be sure, there are many complex issues with our “modern” healthcare system that create high costs with less-than-ideal outcomes. However, the primary problem is that we just don’t have enough healthcare staff. This includes physicians, nurse practitioners, therapists, nursing assistants, but particularly nurses. 

Nurses are leaving the workforce at a much greater rate than are being added. And this is occurring when our population is aging and is requiring an increasing level of support and services. The demand for care far outpaces the supply to provide that care. 

Unfortunately, people aren’t getting the right healthcare services at the right time. From a systems standpoint, this dramatically increases the costs to healthcare providers in the immediate future, and to consumers over time. From a patient care standpoint, people are simply going without, which increases or exacerbates medical complications and mortality.

You may have seen recent news on nursing strikes in California, Minnesota, and in New York City. The primary concern raised by the striking nurses? Not enough nurses. How were the strikes resolved? A significant increase in salary rates to compensate for the painful demands of being short staffed and promises to hire more nurses. 

But there is just one problem, and it is well known in the industry: there really aren’t more nurses. If the hospitals do hire more nurses, they do so by hiring them from a skilled or long-term care nursing facility, or from a home healthcare company … which then prevents the hospital from safely discharging a patient to home or to a facility to help them recover. And so, the movement towards collapse continues.

There are initiatives, both locally and nationally, to address the shortage … healthcare systems partnering with nursing schools to expand enrollment, accelerated nursing programs, student loan forgiveness, etc. There are work groups, committees, and pending legislation at the state and federal government level to better understand the problem and identify solutions. 

However, it’s insufficient. At this pace, it will take many years to develop the supply needed to meet the demand. Without significant interventions and investments soon, we can’t hope to stave off the collapse that is coming.

What can you do? Learn more through reading the increasing number of articles and op-eds online and in newspapers. Talk to people you know in the healthcare field. And most importantly, talk to your state representatives, your congressmen, and your senators to make them aware of the concerns you have. 

Let them know that we can minimize this collapse if we act soon. They’re healthcare consumers too. We all are, and we need to solve this together.