A social media and digital ad campaign encouraging people to consider health care as a career path looks to make a dent in the acute worker shortage the industry faces.
The ads that begin today promote positions in direct and indirect patient care, support roles and administrative jobs. The campaign comes at a time when the Michigan Health & Hospital Association estimates that hospitals statewide are trying to fill 27,000 open positions, including 8,000 nursing jobs.
Part of the problem is that as older health care workers retire, not enough people are entering the profession to replace them amid Michigan's stagnant population growth. When combined with clinical staff departing their jobs because of the stress and burnout resulting from the pandemic, the staffing shortage has been worsening, campaign organizers say.
"We really need some help right now with regards to the state of affairs with staffing," said Amy Brown, chief nursing officer at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing that currently has more than 100 open nursing positions.
The MHA launched the roughly $700,000 MI Hospital Careers campaign using grant funds received last year from the state for worker retention, recruitment and training. The ads will run through Sept. 30.
The health care industry ranks as the largest employment sector in Michigan as of 2021, directly employing nearly 568,000 people who were paid nearly $46 billion in wages and salaries, according to data from a trio of health care organizations.
Despite the present size, "the reality is we need more" health care workers "and we know that we're going to need more in the future as that aging phenomenon continues here in Michigan and beyond," said Michigan Health & Hospital Association CEO Brian Peters.
As the population ages and the demand for care grows, the situation will only further worsen if hospitals are unable to halt or reverse the situation, potentially threatening their ability to provide care. For months, the MHA has estimated that some 1,700 inpatients hospitals in Michigan are not in use today because of staffing shortages, although "that has stabilized and we're not hearing from members that they've taken even more beds offline," Peters said.
"But, again, we have not rebounded to that level we were pre-pandemic and we need to get there," he said.
Retiring Baby Boomers will exacerbate the staffing shortage and "that's exactly why we need this campaign and we need it now to start creating that stronger pipeline for the future," Peters said.
If not reversed, health care worker shortages could potentially feed the stagnant population growth and the role of hospitals as "major economic engines" in communities across the state, he said.
"It's very hard to imagine families moving to a community or businesses locating in a community that does not have a robust hospital and health care ecosystem — the ability to deliver babies, the ability to provide trauma care, the ability to provide access to the full range of health care services that we're able to provide because of that robust infrastructure that we have," he said.
The MHA's campaign targets younger workers and high school and college students who "are at a point in their age and career path where they're really considering what lies ahead, what are the opportunities for them," Peters said. "Health care and hospitals offer an amazing breadth of opportunities (with) well-paying jobs that we think can really make a difference throughout the state of Michigan."
The ads promote not just clinical positions in health care as a career, but also non-clinical jobs such as finance, planning, marketing and maintenance.
"The opportunity to work in this industry is incredibly fulfilling," said Shannon Striebich, the incoming MHA chair and senior vice president of operations for Trinity Health Michigan. "There are, of course, clinical opportunities if folks want to work as clinicians, from nurses to imaging techs, physicians, surgeons. But there's also tremendous opportunity for individuals that may want to work in health care but perhaps not at the beside or not clinical."
Sparrow Hospital's Brown said health care fields offer people the opportunity to begin at an entry-level position and work their way up. A nurse for 21 years, Brown started her career as a patient care technician.
"That's the really great thing about health care. It allows you the opportunity to start someplace and really the opportunities are endless," Brown said.
The MHA plans to track web visits, page views and engagements with the ads and survey hospital members to gauge any new interest in open positions and training programs. The association also is considering how to "extend and sustain the campaign into the future," according to Vice President of Public Affairs Ruthanne Sudderth.
This story first appeared in Crain's Grand Rapids Business.