Wisconsin facing shortage of health care workers

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 4:49 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - The state of Wisconsin is seeing an unprecedented decline in health care workers.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) released its 2022 Health Care Workforce Report earlier this week.

17 different health care professions are tracked in the report, including CNAs, surgical techs, registered nurses, and pharmacists.

Among those 17 careers, the WHA says 13 of them saw an increase in vacancies throughout 2021.

Senior Vice President of Workforce Ann Zenk says more and more workers are getting burnt out.

“It’s things like the 24/7, 365 nature of health care,” Zenk explained. “You’re working shift work, you might have to be on call, you might get calls to come in on your day off.”

She says that’s just the everyday stress of working in health care, not to mention the last two years of the pandemic.

“The successive surges of hospitalizations for COVID have required health care teams to work extra shifts, to work overtime,” Zenk added.

Gundersen Health System is mirroring the statewide shortage of health care workers.

Vice President of Talent and Learning Janine Luz says Gundersen is in need of nurses, as well as people to fill technician roles.

To bolster its workforce, Gundersen has started a career development center, where anyone interested in health care can speak directly with professionals.

“A lot of people don’t necessarily know what roles they could even do, or what the schooling requirements are, or what the experience is,” Luz said.

Gundersen also has a medical assistant training program, where students can get paid for school while working in a clinical setting.

“If they can see, boy if I start as a CNA, and then I can see what is my path to get to be an RN someday, we really think that that is a way that people can see their future,” Luz detailed.

Luz believes if Gundersen continues to build a strong pipeline, its workforce will stabilize in the next few years.

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