Arizona continues to be a top destination for many families fleeing expensive cities and states across the nation in search of a better quality of life. A cornerstone of any thriving community is a well-resourced health care delivery system.
For the past two years, Arizona’s health care industry has focused on managing the Covid pandemic and protecting the structural integrity of our state’s health care delivery system. The most important aspect in delivering widespread quality health care is a stable workforce.
This is a critical time for Arizona. It is important that we continue to meet the dynamic needs of a growing population by having the necessary skilled health care workforce, and right now we are facing the daunting reality of a significant shortage.
Arizona currently ranks in the top five states for the greatest shortage of nurses, an issue that predates Covid, but has been exacerbated by the pandemic due to a combination of employee burnout, many nurses retiring, and a lack of trained nurses to replace those leaving the workplace. According to McKinsey & Company, 32% of Registered Nurses (RNs) surveyed in the United States in November 2021 said they may leave their current direct-patient-care role—an increase in 10 percentage points in under 10 months. This shortage impacts health care across the entire state – rural an urban.
The current trajectory is unsustainable from a public health perspective and economically for the state. That is why we are urging state leaders to support HB 2691 – legislation that would create short-term and long-term mechanisms to ensure a sustainable industry pipeline and greatly increase the production and retention of nurses.
High-quality health care is critical to the quality of life and financial health of Arizona employers, employees, and citizens. We cannot meet our state’s current health care needs and meet the needs of rapid population growth if we don’t invest in creating more health care workers.
In addition to providing the necessary health care for Arizona communities, the health care industry strengthens economic development opportunities, attracts, and expands business development, and creates hundreds of thousands of local jobs. According to Arizona’s Office of Economic Opportunity, the healthcare and social assistance sector currently represents approximately 13.7% of the state’s workforce and is the leading sector of future job growth over the next decade. This economic activity is important for both urban areas and particularly for rural communities where this high-wage industry is responsible for a large percentage of a local area’s economy.
We must do everything we can to create a statewide workforce program that addresses health professional shortages to meet the state’s health care needs and continues to provide high-wage and quality jobs for Arizonans. HB 2691 can be a part of the solution.
Brittney Kaufmann is the CEO of the Health System Alliance of Arizona and Danny Seiden is the President and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.