COLUMBIA, S.C. — From nurses to nursing school faculty to other hospital staff, South Carolina’s healthcare vacancies are in the thousands.

According to Lauren Hewitt at the South Carolina Hospital Association, vacancies and job opportunities in health care are at record highs, being felt across the state.

“I’ll tell you, the vacancy rate for hospitals right now, it can range from 15% to 25%, sometimes and even higher,” Hewitt said. “There are just under 11,000 jobs posted [on the Department of Employment and Workforce website] in the state of South Carolina. Now that’s a large category, healthcare and social assistance, so that includes hospitals, physicians’ practices, it’s clinics. It’s anywhere where a health professional may be working.”

Hewitt said with the lingering impacts of the pandemic and fights for higher pay, many employees are choosing to leave the workforce entirely.

“There were a lot of people who left the profession for a lot of things related to COVID,” Hewitt said. “There were a lot of people who retired early, so we are definitely still feeling the implications.”

It’s a concern that is being noticed by nursing students heading into the job field, too. Miranda Roman is hoping to work in pediatric nursing when she finishes her degree and is hoping to stay in the state to help with more rural vacancies near her hometown.

“You’ll hear it at school, they say ‘we really don’t have a lot of nurses, especially school nurses, we rarely have those either, so it’s like the same people repeatedly so I’ve heard of it,” Roman said. “I want to own my own pediatric oncology office back in town. It’s a very small town.”

Hewitt says keeping students in the state and part of South Carolina’s workforce essentially starts in the classroom, retaining top talent to help lead the next generation.

Hewitt explains a new program from the state, called ‘BOLD’ Career Pathways Nursing Faculty Loan Program is offering millions of dollars in reimbursements is offering an option for graduate students.

The program aims to help students pay off their loans after agreeing to work in the state for up to two years after graduation.

“That’s another thing that we need, is a strong cohort of appropriately trained and compensated nursing faculty across the state in order for us to produce the number of nurses we need heading into the future.”

“If we can set expectations for what the work really is and how meaningful it is, and purpose-driven the work is , and how much science is involved, I think that will be a magnet to continue to draw people  in and have them, particularly the scientists of the world be interested in healthcare.”

For more on the BOLD program, you can visit this website.


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