MARSHALL - Minnesota healthcare workers are by and large adequately trained in technical skills but could use some improvement in critical thinking skills, according to a consensus of employers in the healthcare field who met at a listening session at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center on Wednesday.
The listening session was one of about a half-dozen held around the state, sponsored by Healthforce Minnesota, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to assess current and future workforce needs in the healthcare industry.
About 13 administrators and managers of hospitals, long-term care facilities, and clinics came to the session.
"I wanted to hear where MnSCU is going," said George Gerlach, administrator of Granite Falls Hospital. "A lot of post-baby boomers are on the cusp of a retirement wave and we need people to replace them."
Valerie DeFor, representing Healthforce Minnesota, began the session by presenting the results of a study which attempted to measure supply and demand in three healthcare professions in Minnesota: registered nursing, practical nursing and clinical lab technicians.
The surprising result was that there is an oversupply of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses graduating from the 42 state colleges and universities that offer training. Nonetheless, 83 percent of four-year nursing graduates and 92 percent of practical nursing graduates do find employment in the field. Supply and demand for clinical lab technicians was balanced, according to DeFor.
Bill Blazar, senior vice president for public affairs and business development at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, then invited employers to state what they thought they needed in potential hires.
One consensus that emerged was that many employers would like to have more four-year degree registered nurses, and some commented that the practical nurses with two-year certificates didn't have the critical thinking skills necessary to make important decisions without supervision, at times when time matters.
"The dividing line for many of the employees that succeed is the ability to think things through to the whole picture," said Vickie Abel, representing Avera Marshall.
A related issue discussed at the session was a lack of the so-called "soft skills" in many entry-level employees, such as conflict management, coping skills, customer relations, following policies and procedures, and strong work ethic.
According to Pat Thomas, director for adult education in the Marshall office of Southwest Adult Basic Education, the impression she got out of the session was employers in the healthcare industry in Minnesota have a good working relationship with the MnSCU system. The system trains potential employees for entry-level positions and additional training for employees already in the healthcare system to advance in their professions.
"You've got to build training into your program," Gerlach said. "Nobody will get the finished product in rural Minnesota unless you're damned lucky."