MISSOURI – A new report released earlier this week by the Missouri Hospital Association says turnover and vacancy rates among health care professions have reached an all-time high statewide.

According to the report, vacancy and turnover rates within the health care industry were nearing record levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report says the pandemic has caused long-term and short-term challenges over the last two years as organizations were tasked to meet the demand for increased patient care.

“This strain on the workforce contributes to a perfect storm driving significant staffing shortages,” the report reads. “All hospitals are experiencing increases in turnover, largely driven by early retirements, job changes to other opportunities and exits to other professions. Front-line health care workers are facing burnout after nearly two years of pandemic response.”

The report projects a 24.7% turnover rate and 17% vacancy rate for hospitals into 2022. The current vacancy rate represents an 87% increase in vacancies since 2020.

Missouri state vacancy and turnover rates in the health care industry. (Missouri Hospital Association)

Among staff registered nurses, the largest occupation in the Missouri health care industry, there was nearly a 20% vacancy rate, a 12% increase from the year before. According to the report, Missouri has nearly 34,000 nurses working in hospitals, but more than 8,300 vacant staff nurse positions. Staff nurse turnover among registered nurses increased to 22.1% from the previous year’s rate of 18.1%.

Missouri state vacancy and turnover rates among registered nurses. (Missouri Hospital Association)

“This level of turnover is costly and disruptive for health care systems, and can impact morale, disrupt the nurse and patient experience, and exacerbate an already pressing shortage of qualified talent,” the report reads.

In the St. Louis region, the report projects a 20.3% vacancy rate and a 22.1% turnover rate among registered nurses, both right around state averages. Kansas City leads the state with a 24% vacancy rate, while the south-central Missouri region has seen a state-leading 40.9% turnover rate.

According to the report, hospitals statewide are trying to bridge to gaps by reallocating and retraining nurses and other personnel. Some hospitals are working toward team-based and virtual care models and fostering career ladders and professional development.

Some hospitals are even using tools to recruit, retain and reward staff, including financial incentives, new flexibility and personal wellness programs within the workplace.

“There is a growing commitment to investing in today’s workers while fostering opportunities for tomorrow’s workers,” the report reads. “Every Missourian has a stake in the success of this effort.”