ER Wait Times Tied to Worker Shortage


Kentucky suffers from an acute shortage of health care workers according to a newly released study from the Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA). “While the shortage of health care workers is nationwide, it has hit the Commonwealth especially hard, and KHA is working with multiple partners to find ways to address the challenges,” said KHA President and Chief Executive Officer Nancy Galvagni.

The new study indicates there were nearly 13,000 job vacancies in hospitals across Kentucky at the end of 2022. That level of vacancies means wait times are longer for those seeking treatment. Of those 13,000 open jobs, nearly 5,000 were openings for registered nurses (RN) openings and there were another 300 licensed practical nurse (LPN) vacancies.

Other key positions in hospitals, including laboratory, imaging, and respiratory therapy roles, also continue to be plagued by high vacancies.

While these vacancies inevitably lead to longer wait times, there is good news. KHA and its member hospitals and systems are actively convening partners to address the demographic-driven provider shortages. The KHA Workforce Committee has assembled experts from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Council on Postsecondary Education, and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, along with nurses and hospital administrators to tackle the challenge.

“Our primary objectives are to expand Kentucky’s health care workforce pipeline, remove barriers to health care education, retain the current health care workforce, and redesign models of care,” stated Russell F. Cox, president and chief executive officer of Norton Healthcare and chair of the KHA Workforce Committee. “Through extensive public and private sector collaboration, we are poised to help more Kentuckians attain rewarding, long-term careers in health care while improving the health of our communities.”

The work and timing of the Workforce Committee are crucial because projections from a new Global Data study, commissioned by KHA in conjunction with the Kentucky Board of Nursing, show there will be a shortfall of 6,000 RNs by 2035, essentially the same as today. 

“This challenge will be with us for a while, but KHA will continue to reach out to prospective partners in education, the private sector, and government to make sure our patients can receive the care they need, when they need it. We are encouraged to be working with so many great partners as we move forward,” Galvagni said. 

About the Kentucky Hospital Association: KHA was established in 1929. The Association represents hospitals, related health care organizations and integrated health care systems dedicated to sustaining and improving the health status of the citizens of Kentucky. The Association is headquartered in Louisville.


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