Outreach to young people key to reducing worker shortage
by Maurice Duggins, MD —
Workers used to be so plentiful and medical jobs so desirable that it wasn’t that difficult to find good staff. That’s no longer the case. Whether it is nurses, technicians, receptionists or billers, hospitals and doctors’ offices are struggling to find and retain workers. Here is one example:
A study released in June by the Kansas Hospital Association found 25% of Kansas hospital jobs for licensed practical nurses and 21% of registered nursing jobs were vacant in 2022. In 2015, the vacancy rate was 6% for both RNs and LPNs.
MSSC partnered with several community organizations to hold a workshop earlier this month on the workforce needs of health care, both now and in the future. The workshop featured a panel discussion that included MSSC member Laura Tatpati, MD, associate dean at KUSM-W, and other health care and education leaders.
Kevin Strecker, CEO of Ascension Via Christi, noted that the current worker shortage could become severe in the future, as our aging population requires more medical care and more health care workers retire. “We are headed to Armageddon if we don’t do anything,” he said.
One effort to address this challenge is the new Future Ready Center that Wichita Public Schools and WSU Tech opened this month at WSU Tech’s south campus near Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph. Students can earn their CNA certification and then choose either to enter an EMT or patient care technician pathway. Another Future Ready Center is in the works at Wesley Medical Center. USD 259 also has health science programs at several schools, such as the bio-med program at North High School. It is starting a new program at Curtis Middle School and would like MSSC members to visit the class once or twice a month.
MSSC also is working to grow the health care workforce through outreach to populations underrepresented in medicine. MSSC partnered this spring with the Family Medicine Interest Group at KUSM-W to hold a “Doc for a Day” event targeting students of color. I was among about a dozen MSSC physicians who interacted with the students and shared about being physicians.
Karin Chang, daughter of retired MSSC member Fred Chang, MD, leads a program through the KU Medical Center called T-Score Lift that is also aimed at increasing diversity in health care. It is currently partnering with Wichita Northeast Magnet High School and is seeking to expand to other USD 259 schools.
I attended a “graduation” ceremony this month for a job-prep program run by the Greater Wichita YMCA. It spends 12 weeks training students on job and interview skills, then arranges for summer internships. The YMCA hopes to expand the program to include health care internships.
MSSC members can play important roles in growing our health care workforce, such as by helping with outreach efforts and providing mentoring, shadowing and internship opportunities. If you are willing to help, contact MSSC.
“If we post it, they will come” is no longer guaranteed for health care jobs. We need to be proactive in recruiting and encouraging the next generation to join the medical profession.