BALTIMORE -- With one in every four nurse positions vacant, Maryland hospitals are facing a critical staffing shortage.
An annual workforce report by the Maryland Hospital Association reveals a state-wide shortage of 5,000 full-time registered nurses and 4,000 licensed practical nurses.
"Which obviously makes running the hospital very challenging," said Ed Lovern, CEO of Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital. "We expect this trend to get worse in the next dozen years or so…if we don't do anything differently... to get twice as bad as it is now."
Audrey Dewitt was a health care worker in Baltimore City for 39 years before she retired, and says the hard labor is what drove her out of the industry.
"The labor is treacherous. You're doing four, five people's jobs, but only getting one pay, they're not paying you what you're worth," she said.
The MHA says high staff turnover, shifting care delivery models and an insufficient talent pipeline are pushing the workforce to an unsustainable point.
Lavern said inflation has made it harder to keep up with the cost of staffing hospitals, calling it "the perfect storm."
Patients are feeling the impacts of the crisis.
"People are waiting longer, we're seeing higher emergency department diversion times," the CEO said.
Lovern, who serves as the chair of the MHA task force formed in response to the crisis, says expanding the workforce pipeline and retaining current employees is crucial.
"There is no one silver bullet that's going to fix everything," he said, "Now, it's reaching out to lawmakers and businesses, colleges and creating partnerships to be able to change these things."
With this data-driven report, he says he's optimistic about the future of Maryland's health care industry.
"I think we can be on the forefront nationally on how we address this crisis," said Lovern.
for more features.