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In April 2022, the Department of Labor and Training (DLT), the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) and the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (OPC), with support provided by the Rhode Island Foundation, hosted the Healthcare Workforce Summit. Healthcare and education providers and policymakers gathered in a data-driven, collaborative, and facilitated process to identify short- and long-term solutions to Rhode Island’s significant healthcare workforce challenges. In particular, the organizers and the participants recognized the need for and importance of increased diversity and inclusion within the healthcare workforce.
DataSpark shared a preliminary draft of the following analysis, exploring postsecondary outcomes and workforce trajectories of Rhode Islanders in healthcare and social assistance fields. This final product now incorporates non-postsecondary completers to capture more fully the Rhode Island health and human services workforce.
Leveraging administrative data from the RI Department of Education (RIDE), OPC, and DLT imported and linked in the Rhode Island Statewide Longitudinal Data System (RI SLDS), we identified 57,203 individuals who exited high school, adult education or workforce training, and college or university in 2018 and 2019. We followed these completers, also referred to as a cohort, into the workforce.
Fourteen percent of this cohort, or 8,243 individuals, entered Rhode Island's healthcare and social assistance workforce one year following program completion. Impressively, 6,112 individuals or 74% of those individuals entering this sector remained employed there the subsequent year.
We explored the education and employment patterns of postsecondary graduates in more detail. Overall, 22% of these 2018 and 2019 postsecondary completers entered Rhode Island's healthcare and social assistance workforce one year following program completion.
We further categorized these students based on whether their major was one of 72 healthcare-related fields of study identified by EOHHS, and we found that slightly more than one third of these students were healthcare graduates. For more information on these healthcare-related fields of study, please consult our 2018 data story.
Approximately 18% of the non-healthcare graduates entered Rhode Island's healthcare and social assistance workforce one year following program completion, compared to 43% the healthcare graduates.
Using EOHHS' categorization of healthcare and social assistance programs, we found the most common majors are registered nursing (as opposed to nursing assistants) and general psychology. Just over half of healthcare graduates studied either registered nursing or general psychology. Other popular majors include social work, general health services, and pharmacy. Together, these five majors account for nearly three quarters of Rhode Island's healthcare graduates.
In high demand fields, such as nursing, more than 50% of graduates enter healthcare employment within one year of graduating and nearly 90% of those entering remained employed the following year. These impressive entrance and retention percentages are found in dentistry, nursing (for majors covering both nursing assistants and registered nurses), social work, and majors relevant to substance abuse counselors, occupational therapists, pharmacy technicians, radiologist assistants.
Overall, this cohort entering Rhode Island's healthcare and social assistance workforce is more likely to be:
Thanks to the RI SLDS, we know that 20% of this workforce are English learners, 10% has a disability, 1% experienced homelessness, and less than 1% are veterans. These demographics vary based on the individual's educational attainment.
The Department of Labor and Training's Labor Market Information division reports that as of the third quarter of 2021, the healthcare and social assistance sector employed approximately 75,000 Rhode Islanders, or nearly one fifth of the total private sector workforce. At EOHHS' instruction, we expanded our definition of healthcare and social assistance to include the education and the health and personal care stores. For more information on these healthcare-related subsectors, please consult our 2018 data story.
Using this more expansive definition and the RI SLDS, we found that nearly 142,000 Rhode Islanders or almost 30% of Rhode Island's private sector workforce are employed in healthcare and social assistance. In fact, educational services employ the most Rhode Islanders, roughly 9% of the total workforce. Ambulatory healthcare services, meaning outpatient care and physician offices, employ 6%, and hospitals employ 5% of Rhode Island's private sector workforce.
According to the Department of Labor and Training's Labor Market Information division and as of the third quarter of 2021, the average annual wages for all of Rhode Island's private sector workforce was approximately $60,000 and for the healthcare and social assistance subsector was $54,000.
Using the RI SLDS, we found that this same pattern for our cohort: healthcare and especially social assistance, educational services, and other allied industries pay slightly below the statewide average. Only individuals with advanced degrees in select industries earned annual wages greater than $60,000.
With this story, our goals were to:
In terms of the first goal, our findings had not changed dramatically since 2018. Healthcare is the single biggest sector of employment. Unfortunately, many of these jobs are low-paying. In terms of the second goal, there's still much work to be done to increase racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity at all levels of the health and human services workforce.
Ultimately, Rhode Island's policy leaders and industry partners must collaborate to ensure adequate capacity and a sustainable, well-trained, and well-supported workforce that meets the needs of Rhode Islanders and provides first-rate care.
Published June 2022.