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Aging population challenges Wisconsin amid worker shortage

MADISON — Wisconsin’s health care industry is facing challenges from a growing worker shortage.

As baby boomers retire, there will be more health care consumers, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. However, the number of workers to provide those services is projected to remain the same.

Analysts predict there’ll be almost 52,000 more job openings in the health care and social assistance industries in 2024. Demand is expected to rise for many positions including registered nurses, physical therapists and doctors.

Health care providers said worker shortages will increase costs and limit the number of beds available.

Health care officials said employers are working on long-standing partnerships with universities and colleges to ensure the demand is met.

The state has built up its pipeline for nurses and doctors after experiencing decades of cyclical shortages in different health care professions, said Ann Zenk, vice president of workforce and clinical practice for the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

“Is it a crisis? It could be if we don’t take care of it,” Zenk said. “You see nursing shortages, but we can turn that around pretty quickly.”

The shortage of workers means employers are having a harder time finding quality workers, said Ned Ammons, executive director of Red Cedar Canyon Senior Living in Hudson.

“I hate to say it, but you’re hiring the best of the worst,” Ammons said. “The cream of the crop are genuinely taken. No matter who walks through your door there’s one eye open about: ‘Why are you not working?'”

Many higher-quality candidates don’t want to work for the low, entry-level wages many positions offer, said Heather Hitchler, human resources director at Options for Community Growth.

Some in the industry believe that creating clearer pathways for workers to train into better paying positions could help attract employees.