Hospital job vacancies hit 15-year high in Cincinnati region

Cincinnati-area hospitals are facing the most job vacancies they’ve had in 15 years, a new survey shows, with more than 5,800 healthcare positions open at the end of 2021. The Health Collaborative, the region’s joint organization of hospital systems, released the results of its annual Employee Workforce Survey on Monday, […]

Bill Hawke, nurse manager in the emergency department at TriHealth Good Samaritan Hospital, at work on March 23.

Cincinnati-area hospitals are facing the most job vacancies they’ve had in 15 years, a new survey shows, with more than 5,800 healthcare positions open at the end of 2021.

The Health Collaborative, the region’s joint organization of hospital systems, released the results of its annual Employee Workforce Survey on Monday, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic punched up vacancies, but adding that the pandemic wasn’t the only reason for the unfilled positions.

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Nursing positions took “an alarming” hit, the Health Collaborative noted in its survey. Registered nurses vacancy rate in the region’s hospitals grew 81% during 2021, or about 1,500 unfilled nursing positions.

“Vacancies have been trending upward for quite some time, and COVID-19 accelerated that rate to the highest levels we’ve seen in years,” said Health Collaborative senior manager of business intelligence Jason Bubenhofer.

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Bubenhofer listed a combination of possible solutions, including schools opening more capacity for nursing students, outreach in high school and junior high school, finding ways to recruit and maintain more instructors and prioritizing ways to retain employees.

In the medical ICU at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, two nurses check the stack of intravenous monitors that hang outside the room of a COVID-19 patient. Lengths of tubing deliver the medicine from the pump to the patient .

“The workforce issues are severe, and this isn’t going to change anytime soon,” Bubenhofer said in the Health Collaborative’s release.

The survey’s key findings included:

  • The nursing vacancy rate of 13.9% is the highest nursing vacancy rate since 2003.

  • Vacancy rates spiked in 2021 up to 10.5%, which is the highest it’s been since 2007. Jobs with highest vacancy rates include paramedic, licensed practical nurse, echocardiograph technician, monitor tech, medical tech and surgical lab tech.

  • The registered nurse vacancy rate has been climbing since 2016. That has translated to hospitals throughout the region having had to close needed beds due to lack of nursing staff, the report said.

  • Retirement rates increased in 2021 to a level not seen since 2018. The average retirement age is 64.9 years, down from 65.1 years in 2020.

Julie Harris, an intensive care unit nurse at the Christ Hospital.

Survey data were collected in the spring of 2022 from seven participating hospitals/health systems: The Christ Hospital Health Network, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, CMH Regional/Clinton Memorial Hospital, Margaret Mary Health, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, TriHealth, and UC Health.

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