Health Care Workforce In ‘Double Tsunami’

Rural Wisconsin is seeing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in a few ways — COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising as the workforce declines.

Tim Size, the executive director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative says hospitalizations are going up due to the delta variant of the coronavirus. He says in rural Wisconsin, 46 percent of folks have at least one shot compared to 53 percent in urban areas, adding that more people need to ask the questions to make them feel comfortable about getting the shot. There’s enough supply, he says.

People are concerned about the vaccine for a number of reasons, Size says. He busts some vaccine myths in his interview with the Mid-West Farm Report.

He adds a statewide labor shortage is impacting all sectors, including health care. As health care workers retire — and age — they become customers of health care, increasing demand for staff. Size calls that a “double tsunami.” In addition, the stress and burnout of the workforce from the pandemic is accelerating retirements.

The state is not producing enough workers to replace those workers fast enough, especially for rural Wisconsin, Size says. RWHC supports of “growing your own” workforce here in Wisconsin. RWHC is coming out with a game for students in rural Wisconsin that takes the user through nursing school to spark interest in the health care field. It will come out this winter.

But outside challenges remain: broadband, child care and housing are lacking in rural Wisconsin, Size says. This inhibits young professionals from moving to rural communities. It’s another challenge that RWHC is working on with other organizations to tackle.