We knew Kentucky's hospitals had a nursing shortage. Here’s how bad it really is

Kentucky’s hospitals were short of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses − the largest group of direct-care providers − more than other nursing professions in 2021, according to a report from the state’s hospital association.

The report, released in August, shows that with hospitals from every district reporting, there were 13,423 full-time equivalent vacancies at the end of the year.

After RNs and LPNs, certified nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and laboratory staff were the next highest vacancies in the widely reported shortages impacting many in the medical industry in the state and around the country, shortages that the report says "deepened over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The Courier Journal previously reported shortages were a factor in dozens of Kentucky nurse suicides in recent years. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

More:Dozens of Kentucky nurses died by suicide since 2016 as COVID, staff shortages take toll

Urban areas have more hospitals than rural areas and more vacancies, the report says, but both rural and urban have “unsustainable” vacancy rates.

In 2021, Kentucky's hospitals hired more than 21,000 non-physician direct care positions, including more than 6,000 RNs and LPNs, the report says, but still had more than 13,000 slots at the end of the year, roughly 7,000 of which were for nurses.

The report called this "a critical shortage of employees and a workforce that is not sufficient for high quality and cost effective care."

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There were also 4,780 employee separations last year, almost 90% of which were a result of retirement or resignation. By the end of 2021, 30% of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses were new. Millennials − people born between 1981 and 2000 − are now the majority of the RN workforce at just under 60%.

"The recent pandemic and the impact it has had on the state’s communities and hospitals have highlighted issues with the health care workforce," the report states. "These issues have been present for many years but the pandemic and societal changes have revealed growing and serious problems that must be resolved for Kentucky to retain a robust system of health services."

Read the report in full here: KHA2022WorkforceSurveyReportPublished2022.pdf (kyha.com).

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Reach health reporter Sarah Ladd at sladd@courier-journal.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ladd_sarah.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: RNs, LPNs wanted: Report details Kentucky hospitals' nurse shortage