Name: Troy Wells
Hospital: Baptist Health
Education: Bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of Arkansas; Master’s degree in health services administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock
First job in health care: Two-year fellowship at St. Joseph’s in Hot Springs
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the health care industry in Arkansas today?
Shortages in health care personnel, primarily physicians and nurses, are one of our greatest challenges. Access to health care providers is very low in Arkansas relative to other states, and our rates of chronic disease are as high as anywhere in the country. This puts stress on our existing health-care providers and frequently prevents Arkansans from getting the care they need.
What are some of the most significant financial challenges facing hospitals today?
Providing health care is labor intensive, and when our economy is doing well, labor costs in health care tend to inflate faster than the rest of the economy. While costs continue to rise, payment rates continue to fall behind. This means we have to adapt to new payment models, and to do that we must be able to change how we deliver care.
Has personnel shortage been an issue for your hospital? If so, how have you addressed it?
Recruitment and retention is a serious challenge in health care. To reduce turnover at Baptist Health, nurses were offered increased tuition assistance toward their BSN degree and new loan repayment options. Additionally, Baptist Health College Little Rock and Ouachita Baptist University recently formed a partnership that creates a dual enrollment RN-to-BSN completion program through both colleges. The program allows nursing students to work as RNs a full semester earlier than most traditional BSN programs by enabling students to earn two degrees in four years to expedite their entry into the health care workforce. A partnership with the Little Rock School District in which schools from the district held classes at a Baptist Health facility to introduce and attract high-school students to the medical profession is another program designed to address future health care staffing. These and other system retention and engagement efforts reduced overall turnover to a five-year low.