Minnesota’s Health Care Workforce in ‘Critical Condition’
“The health care industry’s workforce is not in a steady state,” says Minnesota Hospital Association president and CEO Dr. Rahul Koranne. Sam Wagner / Shutterstock.com

Minnesota’s Health Care Workforce in ‘Critical Condition’

Despite improvements in hiring and less turnover, there are still thousands of unfilled jobs in Minnesota’s hospitals and health systems.

With nearly 6,000 unfilled positions, Minnesota’s health care workforce is in “critical condition,” according to the Minnesota Hospital Association’s 2023 workforce report released this week.

Dr. Rahul Koranne
Dr. Rahul Koranne

That equates to a 17% vacancy rate across Minnesota’s health care system, the report said. Those vacancies persist even as hiring reached an “all-time high” in the 2023 report year, with year-over-year increases in the number of nurses, physicians, and other clinical staff members hired in the state. The report also found an overall increase in diversity among health care staffers. Still, a “significant need” remains for more health care workers, according to the report.

“The health care industry’s workforce is not in a steady state, and we remain in a critical condition, which makes it difficult for us to fulfill our mission of providing high quality care and consistent access to all Minnesotans and all patients,” said MHA president and CEO Dr. Rahul Koranne in an interview.

Open positions are leading to longer wait times in emergency rooms and clinics while care teams are having to work more hours to fill in the gaps, Koranne said.

He suggested these vacancies could be driven by a greater number of employees opting to work part time, along with negative rhetoric being disseminated about health professions. According to the report, 45% of Minnesota’s health care employees emplyees work on a part-time basis. Plus, employees are continuing to see the aftereffects of Covid-19, such as burnout and stress.

“I resist and oppose any organization that consistently calls out that working in a hospital is bad, or working in a hospital is dangerous,” Koranne said. “That does nothing in my mind to inspire youngsters to choose healthcare as a profession.”

Koranne said he tries to portray the positives of working in healthcare. As one example, he said it’s important to spend time with elementary and middle schools to inspire them to consider jobs in health care. Summer internship programs and student loan forgiveness could help, too.

At the same time, though, vacancies aren’t the only reason the healthcare industry is in critical condition.

“Nonprofit hospitals and healthcare systems are continuing to be in a financial death spiral,” Koranne said. “We’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year.”

One reason being that government programs don’t often pay full price for health services, according to MHA. The report said that Medicare reimburses hospitals at 20% below cost on average, while Medicaid pays at 27% below cost. Koranne said this is making it difficult for hospitals to support their staff.

Koranne said he’s continuing to lobby the Minnesota Legislature for more funding – an issue he’s long been vocal about.

“This report shows that this issue is not going away,” Koranne said. “All of us might need health care tonight or in the next hour. We don’t know. … This is a critical, critical industry that needs the Legislature’s support.”