Who Will Care For You? WA Hospitals Face a Personnel Crisis by Washington State Hospital Association

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who will care for you washington hospitals face a personnel crisis association of washington public hospital districts taya briley r.n j.d washington state hospital association troy hutson r.n j.d 300 elliott avenue west suite 300 seattle wa 98119-4118 fax 206-283-6122 phone 206-281-7211 for more information contact cassie sauer director advocacy network at 206 216-2538 or cassies@wsha.org stat washington hospitals in crisis a campaign to revive the financial health of

the following indicators illustrate the personnel crisis facing health care in washington state the theme running across each of the indicators is that a lack of health care workers is causing major health care delivery problems throughout the state the indicators are complex and interconnected with other health care delivery issues the contributing factors sections are designed to address that complexity crisis indicators delayed care problem emergency room diversions occur when ambulances are redirected from one hospital emergency room to another because the closest emergency room is not able to accept a patient diversions are cause for serious concern emergency room patient care is delayed patients may also have to be transported out of their communities for care making it difficult for friends and family to follow it used to be that diversions happened infrequently usually during the winter flu season a recent report by the center for studying health system change indicates that

are now competing for workers with home health agencies health maintenance organizations pharmaceutical companies and recruitment firms these organizations are often able to offer a better lifestyle higher compensation and less stress case study grand coulee coulee community hospital mike wiltermood chief executive officer of coulee community hospital can count many ways burnout related to the personnel shortage is affecting his staff the shortage is forcing the hospital to ask regular staff to work longer shifts because it can be difficult for agency staff to work on-call the hospital must often respond to emergencies and employee illness without them increasing the burden on regular staff the regular staff is working so much they are often ill which in turn requires other workers to stay on duty longer supervisors have the highest burnout rates because they put pressure on themselves to cover open shifts and have a responsibility to make sure agency nurses are qualified to

pharmacists function pharmacists have a wide knowledge of drugs and pharmaceuticals which they use in preparing and dispensing medications for administration to patients in hospitals pharmacists play a critical role in patient safety they monitor medication orders for potential harmful effects on patients and advise physicians on medication choices unfortunately pharmacists are increasingly finding employment outside the hospital setting in drug stores and in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical fields the role of pharmacists is certain to expand even further it is becoming evident that pharmaceuticals will play a major role in the future of health care treatment more and more conditions and diseases can be effectively treated and managed by medication decreasing the need for surgery and hospitalization nationwide trends indicate the number of prescriptions written and dispensed has increased significantly creating greater demand for pharmacists numbers marc takemoto pharmacist

numbers in 1998 washington had 2,440 medical record coders employed in the state ranking 11th of the 50 states in coders per 100,000 population with the increasing complexity in health information technology and management demand for workers in this field has grown considerably the american hospital association is reporting a nationwide vacancy rate of 18 percent for billers and coders.76 sixty-seven percent of washington state hospitals responding to a recent survey reported it was somewhat or very difficult to recruit medical records coders.77 the figure was 87 percent in urban areas pipeline in washington state only spokane tacoma and shoreline community colleges offer associate degrees in health information technology sixty-seven percent of washington state hospitals responding to a recent survey reported it was somewhat or very difficult to recruit medical record coders

create a state health care workforce commission the state can provide innovative leadership for solving the health care personnel shortage by creating a health care workforce commission the commission should be tasked with developing a state strategic plan for ensuring an adequate supply of health personnel and safeguarding the ability of the delivery system to provide quality accessible health care to the people of our state commission members should represent hospitals physicians long-term care facilities and other health personnel employers professional health care organizations organized labor business education and the legislative and executive branches of state government the goals of the commission should include a complete analysis of and action on many aspects of health care workforce development high priority goals addressed in the commission s strategic plan should include ยท strengthening the capacity of health professions training programs to prepare students to meet the

there are several successful models in washington state for example hospitals in spokane plan to fund four nursing faculty positions at the intercollegiate center for nursing education which should result in an additional 40 graduates each year other hospitals are doing similar work around the state including kitsap county moses lake pierce county snohomish county and the tri-cities in addition most hospitals support health professions programs by providing scholarships and tuition reimbursement while acting as clinical training sites despite the financial strain of supporting education programs hospitals that participate in these programs often benefit potential workers get to take a trial run in a facility as students they often become comfortable in the setting and want to stay allowing hospital clinical staff opportunities to act as preceptors for students keeps clinicians work interesting many clinicians find a great deal of satisfaction in teaching others about their field

harness the power of technology successful efforts at relieving the personnel shortage will focus on increasing the number of workers available to do the job there is also a role for technology in relieving some of the burden on health care providers hospitals must carefully acquire helpful new technology while keeping a watchful eye on cost some hospitals are better positioned both in terms of size and available finances to make use of new technology gayle mcwilliams pharmacy coordinator puget sound behavioral health tacoma working at the phxis machine a new automated way of dispensing pharmaceuticals throughout the facility new technology must be evaluated to ensure that it helps rather than hinders the job of the clinician specifically with respect to the shortage of pharmacists the health resources services administration suggests initial use of technicians automation and technology to relieve the pressure.106 it also suggests development of a uniform prescription benefit card to

association of washington public hospital districts taya briley r.n j.d washington state hospital association troy hutson r.n j.d 300 elliott avenue west suite 300 seattle wa 98119-4118 fax 206-283-6122 phone 206-281-7211 for more information contact cassie sauer director advocacy network at 206 216-2538 or cassies@wsha.org stat washington hospitals in crisis a campaign to revive the financial health of