“This program is open to employees across the organization, whether they are in food services or environmental services, or in a more clinical patient care role,” Morales said. “It will really be open to all staff, assuming they have that desire and goal to become an IA.”
Eventually, Kaweah Health hopes to open the program to community members.
Rural areas across the country have struggled with nursing shortages for years and they have only been made worse by the pandemic. Last year alone, Kaweah Health’s employment expenses were estimated at $454.1 million, which exceeded budget by nearly $64 million. Next year, employment-related costs are expected to increase by another $2.7 million. These dramatic increases in labor costs have occurred in many ways due to a severe shortage of healthcare workers, forcing Kaweah Health to fill these vacancies with contract labor, overtime and asking its existing employees to work additional shifts. The cost of contract labor, especially traveling nurses, has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the American Hospital Association, nurse placement agencies increased their hourly rates by 213% between January 2019 and January 2022.