Some smaller hospitals are facing staff shortages that have caused administrators to change the way they provide care, speakers at a virtual town hall on the state of rural health care in North Carolina said Thursday. 

It's been called the "Great Resignation," people quitting their jobs for other opportunities or leaving the workplace altogether in the wake of the pandemic.

Dr. James Hoekstra is president of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist's High Point Medical Center and is on the board of Alleghany Memorial Hospital in Sparta. He says the job churn has hit rural hospitals hard.

“What we've been left with is a situation where we've had to hire a lot of what we call travelers or contract labor to make sure we keep our missions running,” he says. “And we've had to change our care models.”

Encouraging STEM education for young people and investing more in community colleges were among the suggestions for boosting the health care workforce.

Speakers pointed out that many rural hospitals are in areas that are losing population as younger people move to urban areas. That leaves an older than usual population to care for.

The North Carolina Healthcare Association hosted the virtual town hall.

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