Minnesota’s health care industry experiencing record-high number of vacancies

Although staffing shortages have long been common in the health care industry, the problem has significantly worsened as the COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on.

Minnesotans gather at a medical freedom rally in Cambridge, Minnesota in August. (Action 4 Liberty/Facebook).

The health care industry in Minnesota is experiencing a record-high number of job vacancies.

That’s according to a bulletin sent Monday by Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The figures included in the report come from DEED’s job vacancy survey, which was conducted in the second quarter of 2021 — before many vaccine mandates took effect.

Although staffing shortages have long been common in the health care industry, the problem has significantly worsened as the COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on.

Vacancies are affecting health care institutions in every region of Minnesota. In central Minnesota, for instance, the demand for practitioners and technical and support workers is “off the charts.”

There are an estimated 2,645 job vacancies in these fields — 700 more vacancies than the previous peak in 2016 and more than double the available jobs at the beginning of the pandemic.

In northeast Minnesota, there were more than 4,500 openings as of the second quarter of 2021. That’s a full 35% of all job openings in the region.

Health care vacancies in northwest Minnesota have also increased by 65% since the second quarter of 2019. For several years there were usually 1,100 to 1,400 job openings each year, but that figure is now at an estimated 3,300.

As for southwest Minnesota, the demand for health care workers remains high “but has started to stabilize after peaking in the fourth quarter of 2020,” according to DEED. There are still 2,700 job openings in the region — up 245% from the second quarter of 2019.

The region’s previous high occurred in the fourth quarter of 2020, when roughly 3,700 positions were looking to be filled.

“There has never been a greater need for such workers in the region. In fact, the number of vacancies jumped by more than 35% (6,000 vacancies) between the previous record high in 2020,” DEED says of the Twin Cities metro region, which has an estimated 23,000 job vacancies.

Observers consider the strain and stress of long hours and COVID restrictions a significant factor in health care staffing shortages — an issue affecting the United States in general, not just Minnesota.

Likely making the issue worse is the widespread implementation of COVID vaccine mandates by Minnesota health care employers. This past November, a group of current and former employees at Northfield Hospital and Clinics filed a lawsuit over their employer’s ostensibly blanket denial of religious and medical exemptions to the vaccine.

“The Hospital … offered one religious exemption to an employee for a particular job which it was finding difficult to fill. When that employee rejected the proffered exemption and quit, the Hospital, on information and belief, offered the same exemption to another employee, but only on the condition that the employee accept the job in question,” reads the complaint.

More than 150 nurses from hospitals across the state said they feared retaliation for opposing vaccine mandates in a lawsuit filed in September. Similar lawsuits have been making their way through the courts throughout the country, and the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear challenges to two of President Joe Biden’s vaccinate mandates later this week.