Michigan Medicine CEO says supporting workforce is still a top priority heading into 2023


Soraya Marashi


In a recently released podcast episode hosted by Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA) CEO Brian Peters, University of Michigan Health – Michigan Medicine Senior Vice President and CEO T. Anthony Denton said that continuing to address state health care workforce shortages and long-term sustainability of the state health care ecosystem will be top priorities for the 2022-2023 program year.


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MHA data has shown the significant rise in labor costs for health care professionals in the state during the pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, compensation for direct jobs in nursing and residential care increased by about $200 million, while the number of jobs decreased by about 11,000. Hospital jobs fell by about 7,000 while compensation remained about the same. 

Denton emphasized the importance of addressing workforce shortages exacerbated by the pandemic to be able to meet the needs of patients of the future. 

“We’re seeing shortages, which will have an impact on access to care, [and] it’ll lead to delays in care,” he said. “We don’t want to be in an upside down situation where it causes adverse impact, because we don’t have enough human capacity to address these issues of need. The pandemic made it worse, people have left the industry causing us to have to figure out how to replace as the demand for patient care grows. So the issues have actually doubled up.

Being able to gain the attention and recognition from those who provide financial support through decisions made, or policies that are adopted, becomes critical. Because we’re all going to be patients at some point, and we’re going to want to have the talents or resources available to take care of us when we need them. That’s why it’s so important for us to be able to cause legislators to hear what we’re saying because it affects all of us, and that includes the communities that they represent.”

Denton said Michigan Health has been partnering and collaborating with state educational institutions to recruit new professionals in training programs, including career fairs, in order to help students see the value of a rewarding career in Michigan health care. He said these partnerships between providers like Michigan Medicine and state educational institutions are vital to the efforts of addressing state workforce shortages.

Denton said efforts to encourage University of Michigan health students to consider careers at Michigan Medicine are especially important for nurses.

“We have a talented pool of nurses who also have aspirations for going other places after being in Ann Arbor for a few years,” he said. “So we have to be mindful that while we certainly do provide field placements for nursing students for allied health programs across the state [and] outside of the state, [we need to] give students in training opportunities to be exposed to Michigan medicine, for them to evaluate us and for us to evaluate them as potential employees of the future.”

Denton also discussed efforts Michigan Medicine has been taking to promote employee retention by keeping frontline caregivers feel both mentally and physically safe. He emphasized that health care workers are increasingly exposed to violence and emotional disturbance exacerbated by the pandemic. 

Denton highlighted this significant increase in employee harm, citing that the health care industry tends to see 4 to 5 times the number of employee harm events compared to other industries. 

He said Michigan Medicine has been engaged in a workplace violence prevention program that focuses on situational awareness and de-escalation training, as well as counseling services and “recharge rooms” for employees to take care of their mental health.