The single biggest threat to the health care delivery system in New York state is the ability to attract and retain staff, according to a new report by Common Ground Health. Founded in 1974, Common Ground is the health research and planning organization for the Rochester-Finger Lakes region.
“New York state’s health care system is in critical condition due to workforce shortages,” said Wade Norwood, CEO, Common Ground Health. “While the health care system continues to evolve – such as the shift to electronic health records, telehealth and team-based care – investments and staff training methods must evolve as well to build the workforce needed for the 21st century.”
Workforce shortages exist across the full spectrum of health care workers, including nurses, public health staff and community-based nonprofit employees. The long-term care sector is most affected by workforce shortages, with almost 4,000 openings and a 71% turnover rate for home health aides and personal care aides, according to the report.
Based on a survey of health care employers across 27 counties, Critical Condition: Sustainable Investments Required to Build a Skilled, Supported and Equitable Health Care Workforce details that while New York state has experienced health care system workforce shortages for many years, these shortages were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing the threat of workforce shortages requires a series of actions:
– Improving training. Survey respondents identified the critical need for better interpersonal communication, relationship building, cultural responsiveness, and addressing social determinants of health, the conditions and environments where people live, learn, work, play and worship.
– Overcoming barriers to existing training. Staffing constraints (57%)
and time constraints (52%) were identified as the biggest barriers to training, such as lacking job coverage to be able to attend trainings. In addition, respondents also reported that their organizations should offer a variety of training options, including instructor-led, computer-based, coaching/mentoring and hands-on training.
– Diversifying the workforce. Increasing the diversity and cultural competence of the health care workforce is critical to reducing health disparities. Along with clinical education, a diverse and representative workforce’s lived experiences provide better patient care by providing insights into the social determinants of health, cultural differences in health behaviors and beliefs, and building trust and recognition for patients.
– A more consistent approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism (DEIA) training. While 72% of respondents indicated that their organization offers DEIA training, 21% reported that the training is voluntary. Respondents also identified interest in learning more about such topics as working with Deaf and hard of hearing populations, and those with disabilities; rural cultural competency; health literacy; trauma-informed care; social determinants of health; and health equity
According to Norwood, these actions can supplement New York state’s recent investment in the health care workforce. “Governor Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature made a significant $10 billion, multi-year investment in health care sector in the 2022-2023 state budget. We applaud this investment and the Governor’s goal to grow the health care workforce by 20 percent over the next five years. This goal – and the actions detailed in this report – can lead us on a path toward a stronger, more equitable and more supported health care workforce.”
Dave Seeley, RochesterWorks! executive director, said, “Through this report, Common Ground has provided another humbling reminder of the critical workforce shortages that exist in our health care system. However, through strategic partnerships, we can offer clear and navigable career pathways, especially to members of our community who are generally underrepresented in our labor force. By focusing and doubling down on these efforts, we can successfully address these critical workforce shortages and provide a roadmap to economic sustainability for thousands of local residents.”
Common Ground Health disseminated the survey in November 2020 to more than 300 health care organizations across 27 counties, in collaboration with Finger Lakes Performing Provider System (FLPPS), the Central New York Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and the Western New York Rural AHEC. The report’s findings are intended to inform health care organizations and educational institutions on their training design and development for staff and students. Since survey responses were received prior to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, they do not include an assessment of vaccine mandates’ impact on the workforce. The survey had a response rate of 40%.
The Regional Consortium on Health Care Workforce, co-convened by Common Ground and FLPPS, guided the report’s focus and recommendations. The consortium is addressing a wide range of issues, such as recruitment, retention, essential skills and competencies, and reducing shortages for key health care positions.
To view and download the report, go to: