Support, Investment in Health Care Jobs Crucial to Economy

Health industry growth slows, hospital tax costs jobs
Although one of the key features of the health care industry is its ability to withstand economic cycles, Ohio’s public policy agenda must make investments in health care to keep the state’s economy growing. Ohio’s health care industry is one of the few sectors with strong growth potential for the future.

Ohio Economy Depends on Health
The health care industry accounts for nearly one of every eight jobs in Ohio today and hospital employment is expected to grow 13.4 percent by 2016. Advances in medical technology and an aging population with greater health care needs will fuel this continued expansion in the health care field. The first Baby Boomers will turn 65 in 2011 and the percentage of Ohioans 65 and older is already above national average.1

Health care industries employed more than 660,000 workers in Ohio in 2007, equivalent to nearly the entire population of Columbus.2 While Ohio lost a total of 274,000 jobs from December 2008 to December 2009, jobs in educational and health services grew by 8,200. Both in Ohio and nationally, health care industries are projected to create more new jobs by 2016 than any other major industry group and hospitals make up a major portion of this industry. Ohio hospitals also boost the state’s economy through the nearly $14 billion they pump directly into their local economies through paid wages and benefits.1

Also, hospital jobs are high quality jobs with excellent compensation. The average hospital worker earned $855 per week in 2007, $211 more than in 2000. This growth is stronger than other industries.1 Hospitals require employees with a high skill and education level, and in turn, these employees have the potential to enhance their communities’ economies.

Since 1976, health care employment has grown about 2.8 percent annually, with almost no reaction to previous economic recessions. People need health care regardless of the economy and health care often gains the employees shed by other industries. However, the length and severity of the current economic recession is affecting health care due to the unprecedented number of people without insurance, disrupted capital markets and a new state hospital tax—keeping employment growth relatively flat.1

Hospital Employment is Suffering
Almost half of Ohio hospitals have already enacted layoffs and two-thirds are leaving vacancies unfulfilled due in part to the hospital tax. In addition to reducing full-time employees, many hospitals also lower their use of staffing agencies to fill last-minute or temporary needs on a day-to-day basis, another good source of jobs for the community. For example, if a nurse calls in sick and no one is available to cover the shift, a staffing agency can provide a hospital with a qualified temporary employee.

Shiftwise, a staffing program OHA partners with to serve over 100 Ohio health care facilities, recently conducted a survey of 35 staffing suppliers across the nation, finding a 15-40 percent decline in hospital job requisitions from last year.3

OHA Solutions data show a 9 percent decrease in Ohio for positions filled using temporary employees—still faring better than the national average. Over the past five years, during the expansion of OHA Solutions’ staffing program, the number of short-term, temporary hospital shifts have increased 400 percent, although previously that was the growth seen during a single year.

OHA works to provide members with economical options to address all their staffing needs. Hospitals can fill temporary positions when needed and find good people to fill permanent positions when they are able to staff up again. OHA offers a health care specific online job board,, for member hospitals at a discounted rate.

Nursing Shortage Looms
Health care jobs make up a big slice of Ohio’s employment pie, and three-fourths of all health care jobs in Ohio by 2016 will require postsecondary education. Because this industry is so large, ensuring an adequate supply of skilled staff, especially nurses, could be another state’s largest employment challenge over the next decade.

Ohio must to secure an adequate number of nursing faculty to teach new nurses. In addition to entry barriers to teaching, such as the need for a doctoral degree, taking a teaching position can represent a significant pay cut when compared to a nurse management position or another position utilizing the skills of an experienced nurse. The number of nurses expected to retire within the next decade also is larger than the number of nurses joining the workforce. Approximately 40 percent of Ohio’s practicing nurses are expected to leave the field within the 10 years.4

While registered nursing is the largest health care occupation—projected to account for nearly one out of every six health care jobs by 2016—Ohio is one of three states with the largest gaps for nurses and nursing students. Ohio’s nursing shortage is projected to be 32,000 nurses by 2020.4 In discussions of health care reform, a workforce plan that includes coordinated strategies for education and keeping more nurses in Ohio must be a priority.

Investment in Health Care Crucial
The economy is slowly recovering and health care will likely bounce back faster and stronger than other industries. However, investments in the future are needed to ensure continued improvements in the health care industry. If financial pressures such as the new state hospital tax, the depressed capital market and staggering uncompensated care levels lessen, hospitals can grow their need for highly-skilled employees.

For more information on OHA Solutions’ staffing program, contact Nancy Melcher-Webb at nwebb at For information on joining, contact Amy Bangert at amyb at

1ODJFS’ Health Care Employment in Ohio: Components of a Growth Sector, 2009
22000 U.S. Census
4The Future of the Nursing Workforce in Ohio, Health Policy Institute of Ohio

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Yes, health care continues to be a growth industry, but stagnant or declining population growth rates in Ohio do not bode well for the wages of those seeking employment in the health care industry in Ohio. Also, I suspect that even with the governor prioritizing state subsidies for higher education toward STEM (or in UT's case, STEMM) many graduates from Ohio higher education institutions will likely seek jobs outside the state with higher pay.

The so-called "nursing gap" has more to do with lousy economic conditions in the state than it does the hospital tax or the lack of nursing faculty. For that matter, the lack of nursing faculty is a direct function of the relatively low wages paid to nursing instructors, as most of them can make a lot more money working in the field as opposed to teaching.

... and I'll empty yours. And we'll both earn a living.

Old South End Broadway

How are these measures going to rein in the costs of health care? The only way that can be done is by individuals refusing to participate in the system. We will have to accept the shortening of our life spans in exchange for securing the futures of our children and grandchildren. Either the insurance companies will begin to ration care by using various options ("preexisting conditions" and the like), or we will refuse health care as it now exists, accept a more natural life span, and starve this unnatural part of our economy.

Old South End Broadway

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