By Mary Mayhew
The verdict is in.
The monumental effort and resources Florida’s hospitals poured into addressing the unprecedented workforce challenge of 2021 and 2022 are yielding positive results.
The results from the Florida Hospital Association’s vacancy and turnover workforce survey for 2023 reveal a dramatic 38 percent decrease in hospitals’ nurse vacancy rate from 2022 to 2023. Hospitals also saw a dramatic decrease in the nurse turnover rate. That figure has also dropped 38 percent from last year.
Florida also excels when comparing the state’s nurse vacancy and turnover rates to the overall national rates. Florida’s nurse vacancy rate of 13 percent is lower than the national vacancy rate of 16 percent. Florida’s turnover rate of 20 percent is also lower than the national turnover rate of 22 percent.
During 2021 and 2022, hospitals’ labor expenses increased more than any other as they increased salaries, instituted new hiring bonuses, and relied on more costly travel and contract labor to fill workforce shortages more than in any other year. While hospitals’ patient admissions increased just three percent from 2019 to 2022, overall workforce costs increased by 45 percent, and costs associated with overtime, incentives, premium pay, and salary market share adjustments combined increased more than 245 percent.
Those unsustainable figures were the backdrop for the hospital industry’s commitment both to growing the health care workforce and to supporting the existing workforce. Increasing retention, increasing the number of students interested in health care careers, and reducing turnover all were priorities for a multi-pronged workforce investment strategy.
Individually and collectively, Florida hospitals worked to improve retention and turnover rates across the state. From deploying organizational strategies to increase job satisfaction and meaningfully address employee expectations and needs to implementing technology that reduces inefficiencies and administrative burdens, hospitals of all sizes across the state did everything they could to demonstrate and reward the value they have for their workforce.
Coming together as an industry, Florida’s hospitals also advocated for meaningful policy solutions and public investments to grow and support the health care workforce. Florida’s hospitals worked alongside policymakers to grow Florida’s health care workforce and make Florida’s health care institutions the first choice for a medical career. With hospital industry advocacy, lawmakers created and funded new health care workforce programs like LINE and PIPELINE to provide state funds for scholarships, residencies, and career ladder support and appropriated funds for the Hometown Hero Housing Program for health care professionals to purchase a home. Similarly, lawmakers funded professional apprenticeship programs such as the Department of Education’s Apprenticeship Accelerator, which benefit both hospitals and health care career seekers.
Florida’s hospitals met the workforce challenges of 2021 and 2022 with the determination, resolve, and creativity they bring to every challenge. Solving the workforce challenge for the long term takes a multi-faceted approach as well as sustained investment and attention. It would be short-sighted to think that the crisis no longer requires attention. With a projected nurse shortage of nearly 60,000 and a physician shortage of 36,000 by 2035, the continued need to invest in both the current and future health care workforce is clear. The good news is that Florida’s hospitals, as always, are committed to partnering with others, engaging in advocacy, and speaking up to make sure Florida has the health care system it deserves.
Mary Mayhew is President and CEO, Florida Hospital Association.