Jobs in Oklahoma Health Care Industry Go Begging

Article excerpt

Even in Oklahoma, a state struggling to right itself from another of its cyclical oil recessions, jobs in the health care industry go begging.

Not only does a nursing shortage persist, especially in critical care units, but hospitals here are finding it increasingly difficult to fill at least three other job categories.

Officials at the Oklahoma Hospital Association say the second greatest need is for physical therapists; next, for occupational therapists; and, finally, for certified registered nurse anesthetists.

Shortages in these classifications, though, are not unique to Oklahoma. It's a national problem.

A survey by the American Hospital Association turned up the bad news. Despite the addition of new compensation programs, more overtime pay, reliance on contract services, and efforts to organize standby staff pools - acts of desperation in some instances - a quarter of the responding hospitals said they were forced to cut services.

The American Hospital Association survey found that 15 percent of the hospitals closed beds or entire units. Nearly 13 percent sent patients to other hospitals because of staff shortages, an equally ominous finding. Overall, shortages were reported in 20 personnel categories.

As in Oklahoma, hospitals across the national report the deepest shortages among physical therapists and occupational therapists. The 3,001 survey respondents said 15-16 percent of these positions are unfilled.

And, there are others. Nurse anesthetists and clinical perfusionists needed desperately in operating suites are missing from 10 percent of the known positions.

Speech pathologists and respiratory therapists also were said to be in short supply, along with 14 other health care occupations.

Oklahoma Hospital Association spokeswoman Sheryl Ray said some Oklahoma hospitals are advertising in out-of-state newspapers for physical therapists. It's a measure of just how acute the shortages have become.

Moreover, it may be only slightly less difficult to find fulltime occupational therapists, pharmacists, nurse anesthetists or clinical perfusionists. …