There’s a perfect storm brewing in healthcare staffing.
An aging population with increasing chronic medical conditions, and a large number of baby boomer nurses who are retiring, means that healthcare companies are staring down the barrel of a shortage of workers, nationally and locally.
Local companies and schools are taking steps to fill those job vacancies.
Galen College of Nursing, which provides nursing education to about 1,200 students in St. Petersburg, has moved to a larger St. Pete campus to expand access to its programs.
Ultimate Medical Academy, a Tampa-based non-profit that awards degrees and diplomas for jobs such as medical administrative assistants, health information technicians and pharmacy technicians, is focused on innovative partnerships with employers and community agencies to grow the worker pipeline.
The need is acute, said Jane Swift, former governor of Massachusetts and executive chairman of UMA, during the UMA 360 Summit last week in Tampa. There are a projected 1.2 million vacancies for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022, and that trickles down to a shortage of other healthcare team members, Swift said.
In Pinellas County, there are annual openings for 829 registered nurses, 14,476 certified nursing assistants, 413 patient care technicians, and 441 medical assistants, Swift said.
Healthcare is the largest industry in the county by employment and it has a much more acute worker shortage than any other industry, said Andrea Falvey, business development manager at Pinellas County Economic Development, during a panel discussion at the UMA 360 Summit, a healthcare conference the school organized last week.
“Even if we had 100 percent placement of every single person coming out of a trade school, or out of University of South Florida or University of Tampa, there would still be openings,” Falvey said.
Galen College of Nursing hosted a grand opening Tuesday for its expanded St. Pete campus, a 70,000-square-foot state-of-the art facility that occupies about three-quarters of the Dex Media building at 10200 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. It’s about a mile from the previous campus, at 11101 Roosevelt Blvd. N.
Galen gutted the existing space then added a simulation “hospital,” with an emergency room and specialized areas for maternity and geriatrics, said Anna Kitson, senior director of marketing. The classrooms have advanced technology and flexible seating arrangements to accommodate different teaching styles. There are breakout and huddle rooms for collaboration, and the entire space has lots of light and color, Kitson said.
The Sharon A. Roberts Library at the new campus is named to honor the first dean.
Kitson declined to say how much Galen invested in the project.
The St. Petersburg campus is one of five physical locations for Galen, based in Louisville, Kentucky and one of the largest private nursing schools in the United States. The school also has an online presence. Galen was established by Humana in 1989 and became an independent organization when the Humana hospital system was dissolved.
The average student is 26 or 27 years old, and many of them are returning to school as a career change, Kitson said. The school offers a three-year Baccalaureate of Science in nursing, an online RN to BSN degree, an associate degree in nursing, a LPN to ADN bridge program and practical nursing.
“We’re growing but we’re being cautious about that growth because we don’t want to jeopardize the quality of education. But we know there’s a need as well as providing opportunities for students who are switching careers or never had a career,” Kitson said.
Pathways and partnerships
Most students eyeing a healthcare career want to be a doctor or a nurse, but there are many healthcare jobs that are a step towards those positions, said Rebecca Sarlo, campus director of Ultimate Medical Academy’s Clearwater campus.
“We can do a much better job in working with the public school system to help those young people understand what those pathways look like and the benefits of going through a career school first as an initial step into the healthcare community,” Sarlo said during the panel discussion at the UMA 360 Summit.
HCA West Florida is developing relationships with schools to recruit newly licensed professionals who have a career path. The company focuses on education and tuition reimbursements to help certified nursing assistants become RNs, for example, said Kevin Bellas, lead recruiter for HCA West Florida, which has 16 hospitals, 24 ER locations, 14 surgery centers and other services.
HCA West Florida is “building the size of the pie, instead of everyone trying to steal the same slice of pie,” Swift said.
HCA also partners with high schools, so students can see what it is like to work in a hospital, Bellas said. Students who complete that program have a chance to get a $5,000 scholarship.
BayCare Health System, a nonprofit with 15 hospitals and hundreds of other Tampa Bay locations, has between 400 and 500 job openings at any one time, said Falvey of Pinellas County Economic Development. BayCare also works with Pinellas County Economic Development, CareerSource Tampa Bay and all the educational systems, she said.
UMA joined forces with the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County on community outreach programs aimed at under-served populations, including Hispanic immigrants. That partnership brings resources to potential healthcare workers who may not speak English or feel left out of the community, said Yaridis Garcia , community planning JWB.
“It really is about being innovative together and having some fun with it, remembering why we do it,” Sarlo said.