Jun. 23—SOUTHERN INDIANA — The need for employees has become as common as complaints about fuel prices, but when it comes to health care, a lack of medical professionals can lead to more dire consequences than running out of gas.
Labor shortages have plagued most employment sectors, and hospitals aren't immune to the struggle to find workers. In Southern Indiana, Baptist Health Floyd and Clark Memorial Health are taking steps to attract employees and keep the workers they have.
"Right now, recruitment and retention is our top priority here," said Mike Schroyer, president of Baptist Health Floyd.
Hospital employees were asked to provide input for a staff satisfaction survey this year, and Schroyer said participation was great.
"We had a ton of comments that have been very helpful to us," he said.
The results spurred a two-pronged approach by Baptist Health focusing on compensation as well as employee well-being. Workers' mental and physical health are critically important especially given what medical employees have dealt with since 2020, Schroyer said.
"Everybody has gone through so much with the pandemic. People are tired, and they've been stressed," he said.
Respite rooms have been added at the hospital, allowing staff some relief from the daily grind of their professions. Inside the spaces they can relax to soft music and dim lighting as a way to regenerate themselves.
To address physical health, the hospital opened a gym free for use by its employees. Massage specialists also make regular visits to Baptist Health to provide free services for workers.
Employees are also encouraged to participate in a program, tracked by an app, in which they are rewarded for accomplishing certain exercise and well-being tasks. They can receive gift cards and other rewards for completing the exercises.
As the hospital prepares for a new fiscal year, Schroyer said the administration is examining its pay and benefits structure.
"We want to make sure that we remain competitive and we want to take care of our staff," he said.
Statewide nursing shortages have been well-documented, and they led to action at the Statehouse.
Indiana legislators approved House Bill 1003 this year which, in part, is expected to increase the size of graduating nurse classes to meet demand. It's estimated the state will need another 5,000 nurses by 2031.
But Clark Memorial Health CEO Martin Padgett said health care shortages are widespread.
"It's not just nursing. It's everything from environmental to food service to registration," Padgett said.
The nursing shortage is partially due to the number of options those professionals have outside of hospitals, he continued.
"Nurses have so many more opportunities today than they had even five or 10 years ago," Padgett said. "Now they can work for insurance companies, manufacturing companies — places that do employee health."
Clark Memorial has addressed shortages by being creative and flexible, according to Padgett. An individual with qualifications to work in more than one type of nursing can obtain additional pay by assisting in multiple departments at Clark Memorial. Padgett said similar flex positions have been created for other services.
"They can get paid more for having those additional skills," Padgett said.
Baptist Health Floyd has partnered with Prosser Career Education Center to get students interested in medical professions more engaged in the field. The hospital has also lowered its hiring age to 16 for service and transportation support positions.
Schroyer, who began his medical career as a hospital orderly at the age of 16, said it's a mutually beneficial partnership.
"We're hoping students can take advantage of our tuition reimbursement programs and hopefully they'll go onto school and continue to work here in Floyd County," he said.
Padgett and Schroyer emphasized that while staffing is a concern, the public shouldn't be worried about receiving service.
"People should not refrain from coming to the hospital," Schroyer said.
Some non-emergency services may take a few extra days to schedule, but hospitals across the country are adjusting to ensure that patients are seen in a timely manner, Padgett said.
Clark Memorial and Baptist Health Floyd are expanding their services in Southern Indiana.
Baptist Health ER & Urgent Care is on track to open in August at 3516 10th St. in Jeffersonville. The newly-constructed facility will feature a freestanding emergency room and urgent care services in partnership with Intuitive Health.
Baptist Health is also overhauling its operating room department at the New Albany location. When completed, the hospital will have eight new operating rooms, a hybrid operating room/catheterization laboratory and space for future growth.
In the first quarter of 2023, Clark Memorial plans to open a facility in Jeffersonville Commons off 10th Street that will feature an emergency room, medical spa and outpatient services.