Workforce challenges are multifaceted and represent one of the greatest pressure points in Alaska and national health care. Following prolonged stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, workforce challenges are especially intense and are anticipated to worsen over time.
AHHA formed a Workforce Taskforce in August, 2021 to convene healthcare leaders for initial discussions in forming collective efforts to assess current data and explore potential solutions. The taskforce will operate under a simple, three-part framework focused on workforce wellness, competency, and availability.
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As we recover from the pandemic, AHHA's top priority for 2022 is finding solutions for long-standing workforce challenges to rebuild and advance Alaska's future healthcare workforce.
AHHA commissioned this Healthcare Workforce Analysis report to dig into the data to help inform possible solutions and opportunities.
CNA Workforce Development
The Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) workforce has faced many challenges during the COVID pandemic, including a decrease in the numbers of CNAs receiving clinical training due to facility restrictions, increased stress and pressure on the CNA workforce, vaccine requirements, and widespread fears related to COVID. CNAs are a critical part of the workforce providing much of the hands-on care in nursing homes. A severe shortage of CNAs has resulted in the reduction of beds available in nursing homes and the closure of entire units which, in turn, impacts facilities' ability to take new admissions from hospitals and meet the needs of the community.
AHHA has contracted with the State of Alaska to support and expand the CNA workforce by focusing on four key areas:
• Expand CNA training opportunities
• Develop and operate a communications campaign to recruit and retain CNAs (visit AlaskaCNA.org for information about training in jobs in Alaska.)
• Provide incentives for CNA retention and recruitment
• Develop a plan for a CNA apprenticeship program
If you have questions or need support, please contact Jeannie Monk.
Workplace Violence Prevention
Alaska’s hospitals have experienced a significant increase in workplace violence. Staff report feeling unsafe in the workplace. Being kicked, punched, spit on, or verbally threatened is NOT an acceptable workplace hazard. Unfortunately, for many of our nurses and other caregivers, such violence has become normal.
In response to member concerns, AHHA advocated for a legislative solution to address the unacceptable level of violence against healthcare professionals in hospitals. AHHAworked with Representatives Matt Claman (D-Anchorage) and Chuck Kopp (R- Anchorage) to introduce a bill that received broad bipartisan support in the Legislature. On June 14, 2018, Governor Walker signed into law House Bill (HB) 312, a crime bill which included provisions to address increasing levels of violence in health care facilities. AHHA believes HB 312 can help to remove violent offenders from health care facilities, resulting in a safer environment for health care workers. We also hope the legislation will convey to health care workers that they are valued and supported thereby improving employee morale and reducing turnover.
Legislation is only one potential solution to this multifaceted problem. Equally important is the work hospitals are doing to ensure they have a comprehensive approach to prevent, identify, and de-escalate violence. AHHA's Workplace Violence Prevention Toolkit includes resources to support hospital leaders in communicating with staff, working with law enforcement, and developing comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans.
An unprecedented number of health care professionals experience burnout, depression and other forms of distress, and are at in increased risk for suicide as compared to the general population. Over the past three years, "fear of exposure to COVID infection and transmission, staff shortages, inadequate personal protective equipment, and work stress have added an extra burden to an already stressful lifestyle."
- Suicide in Healthcare Workers: Determinants, Challenges, and the Impact of COVID-19.
Health care professionals who take care of their mental health are better able to care for patients and resist the effects of burnout, stress, and depression. We've gathered some resources for health care professionals and facilities - tools for finding and providing support, and strategies for creating work environments that prioritize the well-being of healthcare workers.
> Visit the Workforce Wellness Page
Alaska Sub-Specialty Nursing Consortium
AHHA and some of its member hospitals have come together to recruit and train nurses in Alaska for much-needed roles in specialty fields. Launching with our first chosen field, the Alaska Perioperative Nursing Consortium was formed in 2011. The first student cohort for APNC started their classes in January 2012 and graduated in June 2012. Many of these graduates are now successfully practicing at their respective hospitals. Our goal is to broaden our training programs to encompass other sub-specialties with a severe need for trained personnel in our hospitals. Fully staffed departments with well-trained professionals will ensure excellent patient care for which we strive in Alaska’s hospitals.
The Nurse Specialty Trainings are intended to provide experiential and classroom instruction to nurses who are currently working in these fields. The Nurse Specialty Training is one component of requirements to gain certification as a peri operative, peri natal, or gerontological nurse. This training is offered three times a year and each training has openings for 10 nurses. This is a 15-week course with four weeks of in-person didactic followed by 11 weeks of clinical practicum in the home hospital.
Download the STEP Nurse Specialty Training information sheet.