Baptist CEO addresses hospital staffing shortage

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2022

The strain on Mississippi’s healthcare system continues as a considerable number of hospital employees leave vacancies in hospitals across the state. 

There are nearly 3,000 registered, according to the Associated Press, which leaves hospitals and COVID-19 patients in a bind.

Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi’s CEO Bill Henning said the hospital is also experiencing staff shortages in nursing, respiratory therapy and other clinical areas during the pandemic.

“We don’t have an exact number [of vacancies] but like hospitals across the country, we have experienced a greater need for health care workers since 2020,” said Henning.

Reasons for the vacancies are varied: Some nurses are leaving for travel nursing positions for pay that Mississippi can’t match, officials said. Others are leaving the profession because they’re mentally and physically exhausted.

“We are also aware of the emotional impact COVID-19 is having on our staff and the greater health care community,” said Henning. “So we are developing new models of care and providing resources, such as increasing access to our CONCERN Employee Assistance Program, to help our team members cope.” 

The hospital has learned the importance of being flexible and making adjustments as COVID-19 cases rise and fall, said Henning. The staff has been affected by more transmissible variants of this disease, like most of the Mid-South region, and during periods of sudden increases in patients. 

“Fortunately, our staff is resilient and adaptable, and we have been able to make adjustments to continue providing quality care for our patients and the community,” he said. “We are grateful for the flexibility and resilience of our team members. They have shown themselves to be true heroes during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to Henning, Baptist has a long-term plan to continue to recruit and retain health care workers to our facilities. 

“We are also intensifying our recruitment efforts, offering numerous incentive programs and continuing to make Baptist, a great place for any health care professional to work,” he said.

Despite shortages the hospital is using all resources available to us through its 22-hospital health care system and other health care agencies to provide the highest quality of care possible. This includes a surge plan, telemedicine resources, eICU and other equipment.

Due to the increase in cases and staffing shortages, Henning advises the community to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician or consider visiting an urgent care center. 

“We also encourage anyone who hasn’t already gotten the COVID-19 vaccine or a booster shot to consider getting one,” he said. “The vaccine has proven effective in preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19.”

Baptist encourages anyone interested in joining our team or working in health care to go to baptistonline.org/careers.