Staffing shortages still hinder Alaska hospitals; nurses among the highest in demand

Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 10:10 PM AKST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Hospitals need nurses nationwide and across Alaska, as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated health care workforce shortages.

The Alaska State Hospitals and Nursing Home Association recently did an Alaska Healthcare Workforce Analysis, and found there were 6,300 job openings industry-wide in Alaska. Registered nurses led the way with 1,400 openings.

“This is the biggest challenge, I would say, facing health care into the foreseeable future,” association President and CEO Jared Kosin said in regard to the workforce shortage.

This demand has led hospitals to hire more traveling staff to help fill the need, with 11.3% of the state’s health care workforce coming from out of state, according to the hospital association. Kosin feels the reliance on Outside workers isn’t the solution, since traveling nurses are more expensive with rates on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Financially, for the health care system both here and nationally, it’s just not sustainable,” Kosin said.

He believes the solution to the nursing shortage begins locally in Alaska and pointed to the University of Alaska Anchorage as an example.

UAA graduates around 265 students, in their associate and bachelor degree programs statewide, according to Associate Dean of Clinical Health and Sciences Kendra Sticka.

“We see about 90% of those graduates accepting jobs in nursing in Alaska following graduation,” Sticka said. “So we really have very strong success in keeping nurses who graduate from our programs in the state.”

While the program has been successful, there’s room to grow, as many applicants have been turned away because of capacity constraints like clinical placements, clinical facilities and labs.

“We have approximately two to three times the number of students who would like to complete a nursing degree, apply to a full major, as we can accommodate in our program at the time,” Sticka said.

She adds that the program is looking into expanding physical space and opportunities for clinical placements, and hopes to graduate larger classes of nurses in the future.

This month the American Nurses Association called on Congress and President Joe Biden’s administration to take a “meaningful look” at nurse staffing shortages.

Representatives Peter Welch (D-Vermont) and Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia) wrote a letter to the White House COVID-19 Task Force calling for an investigation into price gouging during the pandemic by staffing agencies

Copyright 2022 KTUU. All rights reserved.