Mo. hospitals nearly at record-level of vacant nurse jobs

St. Louis and Kansas City lead the state with open hospital staff positions

By Annika Merrilees
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — Turnover and vacancy rates in hospital staff positions statewide remain at near-record levels, a report released Wednesday shows, reflecting a slower-than-desired recovery for the industry and its workforce.

The vacancy rate for staff nurse positions in Missouri was 17%, only a modest decline from the record 20% rate seen the year before, according to the Missouri Hospital Association workforce report.

In the years leading up to the pandemic, the statewide vacancy rate was 10% and 11%.

The state's larger metro areas had higher staff nurse vacancy rates than the rest of the state, with 18% in the St. Louis area, and 21% in the Kansas City area.

MHA president and CEO Jon Doolittle said that while the numbers this year show a "small improvement" over those seen in the worst of the pandemic, "they shouldn't be viewed as an indicator that the hospital staffing crisis has passed."

"Much work remains to ensure hospitals have the staffing necessary to deliver and support care in the long and short term," Doolittle said in a statement.

The industry group report says retention must be a top priority. Hospitals should convey to front-line workers and leaders that their work is valued by emphasizing flexibility, work-life balance and inclusivity, among other things. The report calls for including workers in decision-making — and for "frequent and consistent" compensation reviews and "stay" interviews.

"This year's workforce report is a reminder," Doolittle said, "that we have work to do."

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