Mass Exodus of Health Care Workforce Expected Within a Decade

by jbrezinsky29. March 2012 03:39

Retirement intentions among the health care workforce within the next decade increased sharply since 2008 and will pose a number of challenges to employers in the Fox Valley, according to a survey released by the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board (FVWDB) and the Fox Valley Health Care Alliance  (FVHCA), in conjunction with Moraine Park Technical College. Health care employers could see nearly one-third of their current workers retire over the next ten years, and close to half retire within 15 years.


The study titled “Sustaining Wisconsin’s Healthcare Workforce: A report on Healthcare Worker Retirement and Departure Intentions in the Fox Valley,” confirmed that shortages are certainly on the horizon. While just over 15 percent of the employees surveyed said they plan to retire within the next five years, the study projects a cumulative loss of nearly 32 percent of health care workers over the next 10 years, and nearly 48 percent within 15 years. While a significant number of workers will retire within the next 15 years, nearly 40 percent of workers are at least 20 years from retirement. 


Numerous technician, physician and support positions will see retirements exceeding 40 percent over the next 10 years. Several patient care provider positions will be hit particularly hard by retirements over the next 10 years.  Licensed practical nurses will see retirements nearing 43 percent of the workforce, while losses of registered nurse managers will near 67 percent over the 10 year period.


This is the second survey predicting future health care workforce needs and providing information necessary for planning to meet future workforce requirements in the health care sector. Since the initial study release in 2008, hospitals and other health care providers have made concerted efforts to attract and retain employees in key areas. Despite this progress, a shortage of health care workers is imminent in the Fox Valley.


Sue Edminster, vice president of human resources at Agnesian HealthCare stated, “As the face of healthcare evolves, the data from the study will be a critical tool to assist organizations as we forecast our talent and skill needs for the future.  Working collaboratively with our area education partners, it will be important to develop long range recruitment and retention strategies to support our current employees and plan for future skill gap needs.”


Linda Mingus, director of Human Resource Services at Aurora Medical Center Oshkosh emphasized the value of the study to regional health care partners stating, “The Fox Valley Healthcare Alliance members are fortunate to have the data outlined in this report to aide in workforce planning. This survey process helps Fox Valley Healthcare Alliance members ensure an integrated process for identifying, securing and developing the workforce required to support our organizations' mission and for developing and implementing strategies to manage workforce supply and demand instead of reacting to business and market changes.”


Additionally, the survey data assists local educational institutions in determining programmatic adjustments to curriculum and capacity for meeting future demand. Clear and precise retirement projections by occupation means workforce planning in the Fox Valley may become a reality.


“We are pleased to be part of the Alliance and this important research,” said Dr. Sheila Ruhland, Moraine Park Technical College president. “The results of the survey will allow technical colleges to be proactive in addressing our educational programs to ensure a future skilled healthcare workforce.”


Dr. Susan May, president of Fox Valley Technical College added, "Participation in this study by our region's health care providers has been outstanding. From a higher education perspective, having information about anticipated retirements and available positions in this important industry is critical. It certainly helps inform our plans for new or expanded programming to support high demand health occupations here in the region."


Over 8,500 regional health care employees representing eight major health care employers, including Agnesian HealthCare, Affinity Health System, Aurora Health Care, Evergreen, State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services Northeast Regional Office, ThedaCare, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, and Lutheran Homes and Health Services, completed the survey.  In total, more than 60 percent of the employees across those eight organizations participated. 


The FVHCA was formed by FVWDB to bring together educators and healthcare employers from the Fox Valley to collaborate on regional healthcare initiatives.


The survey report will help FVHCA partners as we continue collaborating to ensure there is a high quality healthcare workforce in northeast Wisconsin”, noted Jen Meyer, chief program officer at FVWDB. “We now have a more solid grasp of our strengths and weaknesses, and what we need to do to be successful in the future in what is an extremely important industry sector,” she added.


The survey results, along with detailed information on the partners who comprise the Fox Valley Health Care Alliance, are posted at: