Special Report

States With the Worst Hospital Workforce Shortages

If you’ve been admitted to a hospital during the coronavirus pandemic you might have firsthand experience of the consequences of the ongoing health care workforce shortage.

Understaffed medical wards are common these days at many hospitals nationwide, with many operating on skeleton staff. The workers who care for and monitor patients round the clock, check vital signs, change beds, and administer medications among their many important roles, have become exhausted — and their numbers depleted. The issue of understaffed hospitals is so acute that doctors are warning overall patient care is at risk.  

COVID-19-related hospitalizations are surging, once again, during the omicron wave of the pandemic. And while relatively fewer cases are severe compared to previous waves, far more people are getting infected, still causing an increase in hospitalization. 

Patients entering hospitals with this variant are filling beds and increasing the risk of spreading the virus to uninfected patients and hospital staff. People who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 are far more likely to require hospital care when they contract the virus. 

To determine the 16 states where hospitals are experiencing the worst workforce shortages, 24/7 Wall St. aggregated data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. States were ranked on the percentage of hospitals in a state that anticipated a critical staff shortage in the week following Jan. 3, 2022. Data on the number of hospitals in each state anticipating critical staff shortage and the percentage of inpatient beds currently being utilized is also from HHS. 

The chance you, or someone you know, will be admitted to a hospital facing severe staffing shortages depends on where you live — and the number of local hospital beds compared to the currently available qualified health care providers. (Here are the 46 general hospitals that received the top hospital award this year.)

At the start of the year, hospitals in many states anticipated critical health care staffing shortages. The percentage of hospitals anticipating critical shortages for the 16 states on the list range from 43% to 73%. For example, 71% of New Hampshire’s hospitals anticipated workforce shortages at the beginning of the year. In Michigan, the percentage was 43%. (This is the least healthy state in America.)

Here are the 16 states where hospitals are experiencing the worst workforce shortages