News release: MDH report highlights need for retaining and recruiting health care workforce

News Release
April 12, 2022

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MDH report highlights need for retaining and recruiting health care workforce

Results from a Minnesota Department of Health survey confirm health care worker burnout and show workforce shortage trends are affecting a wide range of health care professionals.

The report, Minnesota’s Health Care Workforce: Pandemic-Provoked Workforce Exits, Burnout, and Shortages (PDF), is the first report of its kind covering the effects of the pandemic on most of the licensed health care workforce in Minnesota. It is based on the MDH health care workforce survey, which is administered at the time of license renewal for “front-line” providers including physician assistants, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, nurses, physicians, mental health providers and others.

The survey data indicates alarming projected workforce losses in Minnesota’s small towns and rural areas. Nearly 1 in 5 rural health care providers say they plan to leave their profession within the next five years. The largest projected losses are among physicians. One out of every 3 rural physicians report planning to leave their profession within the next five years.

“We are going to need several approaches and solutions aimed at both recruiting the future workforce and retaining the current one,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We in government and health care must do more to prioritize retention, work with educational institutions to expand clinical training opportunities, and focus more broadly on the care team, including nurses, physicians, physician assistants, respiratory therapists and others.”

Providers are seeing workforce shortages across Minnesota. The report found that vacancies have increased in nearly all health professions since their pre-pandemic levels, in some cases dramatically. The largest increases are in mental health and substance abuse counseling occupations, where 1 in 4 jobs is currently vacant and open for hire.

In nearly every profession, more providers than in prior years reported that they planned to leave their profession within the next five years, and a much higher share of these exits is due to burnout.

While burnout among nurses has been widely recognized, other providers are also struggling. Burnout or job dissatisfaction accounted for 26% of all physician assistant workforce exits, and 22% of respiratory therapy exits.

The report identifies potential solutions including retaining the incumbent workforce through programs such as loan forgiveness for health care providers, career exploration initiatives for new and dislocated workers, and programs aimed at increasing the diversity of the workforce. Employers can also focus on overcoming the hiring challenge by making health care jobs safe, flexible, well-paid and family-friendly.

Current legislative proposals aim at revitalizing our health care workforce. They include launching rural clinical training tracks to create a pipeline of primary care physicians and psychiatrists trained in greater Minnesota; funding to expand rural rotations and clinical training opportunities for pre-licensure nurse practitioners, physician assistants, behavioral health students and dental graduates; and financial supports to mental health providers to pay for the supervised training they are required to complete before becoming licensed to practice.  These efforts are designed to develop a continuous pipeline of health care professionals in high-need fields to ensure the health and economic vitality of rural areas.

The Walz-Flanagan Budget to Move Minnesota Forward also includes the following proposals:

Revitalize Our Health Care Workforce - The pandemic has highlighted the importance of investing in our health care workforce. Investing in this high-need career area is vital for the future health of our state. The governor and lieutenant governor’s budget makes critical investments in the health care workforce, building on recent programs like free certified nursing training and the Minnesota Future Together Grant, both of which provide tuition-free pathways for students in high-need career areas.

Recognize Frontline Workers - The Walz-Flanagan Budget to Move Minnesota Forward recommends $1 billion to provide payments to frontline workers who have sacrificed during the pandemic to keep Minnesotans safe, healthy, fed and cared for. This proposal would provide $1,500 payments to an estimated 667,000 workers, including health care, child care, school, grocery store, food service, transportation, long-term care, building service, public safety, retail and manufacturing workers. These frontline worker payments recognize the essential work of Minnesotans who have risked their health and continue to provide the vital services needed to keep our state running during this pandemic.

Support Minnesota’s Caregiver Workforce - Governor Walz has proposed more than $250 million to address the workforce shortage, including an incentive program that would provide retention and bonus payments for workers who join and stay in the caring professions, including those who provide care for people with disabilities, older adults, people with behavioral health needs and people experiencing homelessness. Critical workforce shortages in these sectors have deepened during the pandemic and pose a threat to the health, independence and stability of Minnesotans who rely on it.

The report is available at Health Care Workforce Reports and Presentations.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith 
MDH Communications