Gundersen leaders work to solve health-care worker shortage; WHA report shows drastic gap

Gundersen starts career development program to keep people in health-care paths

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The gap between health-care hires and job openings doubled between 2019 and 2021. That’s according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association. One La Crosse healthcare system prepared for the problem.

The workforce is suffering. The evidence shows up in data.

“It has been, really a drain on so many healthcare professionals,” said Janine Luz, learning vice president at Gundersen Health System.

The WHA workforce report shows that, from 2019 to last year, the gap between “health-care and social assistance” hires and openings doubled from 578,000 to over a million.

Luz understands health care. She’s invested 17 years of her life in this profession. She said they are prepared to mitigate this problem.

“Very aligned with what we’re experiencing here,” said Luz, referencing the WHA report.

Baby boomers are retiring fast, said Ann Zenk, WHA senior vice president of workforce and clinical practice.

“At a rate, that’s faster than younger workers can replace,” Zenk said.

Zenk knows the health-care workforce can’t grow fast enough. They have to adapt and change their approach. Convenience is one way.

“We also know that we have to get regulations and red tape out of the way,” Zenk said.

Data show health care is still a desired career choice. Programs designed to prepare new registered nurses saw enrollment increase by 5.6% in 2020, according to new data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

That is “a really impressive rate of growth,” Zenk said.

Gundersen started an internal career development center to solve the worker shortage issue.

“People who are really skilled at career development talking to people about careers,” Luz said.

That’s a big step in Luz’s eyes, because the quality and availability of La Crosse’s health care depend on the people who find meaning in pursuing these careers.

“We think that’s really gonna help with our pipeline,” Luz said.

Luz said Gundersen’s career program is already showing progress in getting new talent in the door.

Anyone interested in careers in health care can find information at the links below.

Viterbo School of Nursing 

Viterbo – Pre-Health Programs

Western Technical College 

UW-La Crosse Healthcare Administration

UW-La Crosse Pre-Med

UW-La Crosse – Healthcare Career Pathways

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction – Healthcare Career Pathways

Gundersen Health System Careers

Mayo Clinic Health System – Careers

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