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New reports highlight state nursing workforce challenges


Staff Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma is facing a shortage of health professionals as the need for more health care workers increases. An aging population, expanded health coverage, aging nursing workforce and other economic conditions have led to these workforce shortages. That is why the State’s Health Workforce Subcommittee of the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development has been studying health workforce trends and recently released two reports on Oklahoma’s nursing workforce: 2018 Nursing Workforce Oklahoma Report and 2018 Nursing Professions Oklahoma: Issue Brief.

“All of our research has shown the state must take several steps to overcome our health workforce challenges, including a focus on data collection and analysis, recruitment and retention, capacity building among education and training institutions, and health workforce policy and evaluation strategies,” said Shelly Dunham, CEO of Okeene Municipal Hospital and Chair of the Health Workforce Subcommittee.

According to the reports, Oklahoma’s nursing shortage is complicated by slow growth in the number of nursing professionals available to fill jobs and a lack of capacity among education institutions to produce enough nursing professionals. To address workforce needs, the Issue Brief recommends:

• Increasing training capacity through program partnerships and financial incentives for nursing faculty and preceptors;

• Decreasing turnover and improving safety through tuition reimbursement, loan repayment, funding for nurse preceptors and residency programs, and expanded protections against workplace violence; and

• Improving understanding of workforce needs through information gathering about nurse supply, demand, education levels, turnover, and rural and urban distribution.

“The Health Workforce Subcommittee has made invaluable contributions to our efforts to close the state’s skills gap,” said Nathaniel Harding, Chair of the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development. “We look forward to working with Governor-elect Stitt to continue addressing the challenges facing Oklahoma’s health workforce in order to grow our economy and improve the health of all Oklahomans.”

Harding commends the Health Workforce Subcommittee members for their work on the reports:

• Jeremy Colby, Vice-President, Human Resources, Devon;

• Randy Curry, DPh, Rural Health Coordinator, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, College of Pharmacy;

• Tim Davis, Telehealth Director, Oklahoma State University;

• Shelly Dunham, CEO, Okeene Municipal Hospital [Chair];

• Jason Eliot, JD, Vice-President, Human Resources, INTEGRIS Health System;

• Randy Grellner, DO, Utica Park Clinic;

• Tandie Hastings, CEO, Companion Health;

• Ted Haynes, President, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma [Physicians Workgroup Co-Chair];

• Teresa Huggins, Stigler Health & Wellness Center [Critical Occupations Workgroup Chair];

• Daniel Joyce, DO, Program Director, OU Family Medicine Residency Program (Lawton);

• William Pettit, Provost, Associate Dean, Oklahoma State University Health Sciences Center;

• Deanna Tharp, LPC, Deputy Director, Mental Health Services of Southern Oklahoma;

• Shelly Wells, PhD, Division Chair and Professor, Northwestern Oklahoma State University [Nursing Workgroup Chair];

• David Wharton, MPH, Chief Risk Officer, Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority; and

• John Zubialde, MD, Dean, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center [Physicians Workgroup Co-Chair].

Download the full reports at:


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