Health Report: Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners face staffing shortage

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 3:55 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners (FHP) is currently facing a staffing shortage along with many other health care providers in the State of Alaska.

According to Nicole Welch, Chief Human Resource Officer for Foundation Health Partners, the organization has almost double the job availability of a normal year. “We’re down about 200 across the system. That includes Tanana Valley Clinic, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, and the Denali Center. On average, we would usually have between 100 and 120 positions available at any given time. So we are definitely down. I wouldn’t say 50% down, but we’re down - and it is across the system, so there’s not an untouched job or department that isn’t experiencing some sort of shortage or a need for staff. It’s not all just clinical areas where there’s a special expertise.”

Welch explained that there are several different factors contributing to the staffing shortage. “We have been tracking our applicant traffic. We’re down about 40% applicant traffic, meaning we are seeing 40% less applicants applying to our jobs than at a previous time. I’m sure there’s a spectrum of reasons. COVID has been difficult and hard, people may be fearful to come to work in a health care setting, and lots of challenges with schools and parents trying to manage homeschooling last year.”

Along with trouble recruiting locally, FHP is also having difficulty bringing in out-of-town specialists, also known as travelers. Welch remarked, “In some of our highly specialized clinical areas, we sometimes have to get people to come for short term assignments to fill gaps while we permanently recruit, or when we have people out for different types of leave. We’re struggling to get travelers as well because nationally there are a lot of hotspots for COVID, and traveling right now is a hot commodity. So we are seeing less applicants in that area as well. Things that used to be a great band-aid for us aren’t available in the same way.”

And while FHP is offering financial incentives for current and new employees, Welch says they are also utilizing the staff they have to maximize patient care. “We’re also looking across our system at how we move staff around to the most critical needs to make sure that we have people where we need them for the most critical care. That’s a day-to-day activity that happens, but it does cause potential shortages of other service lines. So we’re really trying to be as strategic as we can to support the continuum of care here in Fairbanks, while moving the staff around as much as possible to meet the need on any given day.”

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