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Health News Florida

Florida House panel looks into ways to battle health care staffing shortages

memorial healthcare fernandez.png
The Florida Channel
Memorial Healthcare System president and CEO Aurelio Fernandez discusses the health care staffing shortage with the state House Health & Human Services Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.

In advance of the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers eye ways to bolster education and training programs for nurses and other health professionals to help alleviate industry-wide staffing woes.

A staffing crisis currently plaguing hospitals, nursing homes and community health centers likely has no short-term solution, a panel of industry leaders told state lawmakers Tuesday.

Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary Mayhew told the House Health & Human Services Committee that eliminating burdensome paperwork and “anything that is detracting from the care at the bedside” could help make health care jobs more appealing to future generations of workers.

“One of the things that we’ve been blessed by in health care is that generally there’s significant interest among middle school students, high school students, to pursue health care careers and for many to become nurses,” Mayhew said. “And we want that to remain a fulfilling and rewarding career. So we have to constantly reexamine how care is delivered, how it is managed, how it is overseen.”

Video: House Health & Human Service Committee discusses health care staffing shortages

Steven Bennett, workforce development manager for the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, described the hiring situation as a “seller’s market” in which health care providers are competing for employees.

“Part of the challenge that I think we’re going to see over the next five years is a bit of a PR challenge about building a career in health care,” Bennett said. “It’s a little bit like 20 years ago in manufacturing, when we looked at manufacturing jobs as dirty jobs. Well, if you went to a manufacturing plant, you would see it was very clean, right? It wasn’t accurate.”

Bennett said that many community health centers are experiencing annual staff turnover rates of up to 30 percent.

Resolving the staffing conundrum may be complicated, the industry leaders indicated.

“There is no solution in the short (term). This is a two- to three-year journey,” Memorial Healthcare System president and CEO Aurelio Fernandez said.

In advance of the 2022 legislative session that begins Jan. 11, lawmakers are looking at ways to bolster education and training programs for nurses and other health care professionals to help alleviate industry-wide staffing woes.

Fernandez suggested that retired nurses could be recruited to teach at medical schools.

Legislators also could consider expediting licensing processes and explore other changes regarding qualifications for health-care workers, Fernandez said.

“That would add to the pipeline,” he said. “But as far as an immediate solution? No.”