New effort launches to cure Nebraska’s hospital staffing crisis

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Several health care organizations have joined forces to build back the workers Nebraska hospitals desperately need.

Experts are calling the hospital staffing shortage a crisis, and they’re warning it could get worse in the next few years.

So the Nebraska Hospital Association and Nebraska Rural Health Association teamed up with 18 other organizations to start the Nebraska Healthcare Workforce Collaborative.

Their plan of action is to invest in the future of health care in the state.

“How do we showcase these health professions to high schoolers?” asked Jed Hansen, executive director of the rural association. “How do we then recruit them into our colleges and universities? And then how do we make sure they have a fulfilling career once they’re on the other side of their education?”

Hansen said Nebraska is already short around 5,500 nurses, and those numbers are expected to increase soon.

“In rural Nebraska, we’re seeing some real concern,” he said.

About 60% of the doctors and nurses in rural Nebraska will be in retirement age over the next 10 years, Hansen said.

Urban hospitals also expect to lose workers from the baby boom generation.

And when rural hospitals struggle with staffing, they have to cut services, which forces people to travel to bigger hospitals.

Jeremy Nordquist, president of the hospital association, said the workforce collaborative is hoping to get ahead of that problem by funding health care education and working with lawmakers to come up with long-term solutions.

“There’s no way out of this health care workforce crisis without collaboration and investment,” Nordquist said. “We have no individual bodies to waste, no state dollars to waste. We’ve got to have a very targeted plan.”

Nordquist said this isn’t a problem they can keep waiting to solve.

“We’re seeing the workforce crisis really from border to border,” he said. ” This is priority No. 1, whether you’re the leader of a small hospital or a big hospital.”

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