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Demand for healthcare workers exceeds supply | State and Region

Leaders of rural health associations say the pandemic has caused a lot of stress and a shortage of workers.

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Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, health care has undergone quite a transformation.

Healthcare workers felt pressure as the demand for their skills increased. Hospitals have seen increased activity with spikes in cases and new variants, in addition to their normal services, resulting in a shortage of workers. This has been felt particularly in rural areas, where access to health care can be harder to come by and miles away in some cases.

These are not new issues, but COVID has put a magnifying glass on these issues in most rural areas.

“We didn’t realize how serious this was,” said Charles James Jr., CEO of North American Healthcare Management Services and president of the Illinois Rural Health Association. “For those who suffer from transportation insecurities, especially our Medicare patients and even some of our own employees who have to transport children to daycare, this has been extremely pronounced.”

This has caused a lot of stress, both professionally and personally, for healthcare workers, James said.

“We get a lot of health care providers with massive trauma,” he said. “On top of that, many say they just can’t take it anymore, or on their own. The ultimate ramifications of this trauma experienced will be long term.

Melissa VanDyne, executive director of the Missouri Rural Health Association, said one of the main reasons job openings in the sector don’t fill up immediately is due to a lack of supply.

“It’s not just doctors and nurses, but we see it at all levels,” VanDyne said. “It’s also in what we call Allied Health Services – your food and your care – really everything in and around health care.”

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