Governor’s Task Force on Healthcare Workforce – Summary of May Meeting

June 28, 2024 8:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

This task force’s most recent meeting was held on May 9 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus.  The initial portion of the agenda was a panel discussion on recruitment and retention that featured the following panelists:

  • Dr. Hannah Maxey, Veritas Health Solutions (NOTE: She served as panel moderator.)
  • Dr. Tom Kernozek, Professor and Chair, Department of Health Professions, UW – La Crosse (Task Force Member)
  • Heather Schimmers, President, Gundersen Health System (Task Force Member)
  • Ann Zenk, Senior Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice, Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA)

Zenk discussed the annual workforce report that WHA publishes.  WHA is concerned about the “silver tsunami” – the increase of those Wisconsinites aging into retirement.  She also discussed that in 2022, the nursing shortage hit Wisconsin hard, as nurses comprise over half of a hospital’s workforce.  Kernozek discussed UW-La Crosse’s health education programs and how they partner with local school districts and health systems with a presence in the area.  With respect to challenges, he discussed their faculty recruitment and retention issues.  Schimmers discussed the hiring challenges that Gundersen faces and how they made changes to try to improve.  She noted that there is high turnover within the first 1-2 years of joining the health care profession and that the industry is not preparing the workforce enough for the hardships they will face in the workplace.

The three panelists proposed a number of solutions:  Medicaid reimbursement expansion, loosen restrictions on requirements for faculty, uniform licensing processes, tax incentives for nursing preceptors (mentors), loan repayment programs for faculty, among others.

The next portion of the meeting featured Dr. Maxey reviewing the themes discussed during the breakout sessions held during the task force’s April 4 meeting:  education, incentives, funding, and apprenticeships.  Please note that these issues were addressed in our summary of the task force’s April 4 meeting. 

The final portion of the agenda featured breakout groups, which came up with numerous proposed solutions to workforce challenges.  The groups came up with numerous suggestions, including encouraging worker usage of employee assistance programs, target funding based on geography and need, expanding Medicaid, invest in apprenticeship and related programs, marketing campaign to seek health care workers, removing the state “benefits cliff” for workers who are promoted, encouraging high school students to seek concurrent training for certain roles (LPNs, etc.), tax incentives for preceptors (mentors), among others.

The meeting closed with an announcement that the task force’s June meeting will review prior workforce improvement suggestions and transform them into draft task force recommendations that will be prioritized.

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