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Healthcare Impacted by Lack of Affordable Childcare

Finding affordable and reliable childcare close to home has always been a challenge here in Hawai‘i. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, daycare facilities closed and many childcare workers left the industry. As a result, many workers in all industries, including healthcare, were forced to leave the labor force to care for their children.


Childcare is one of the greatest expenses families face. In Hawai‘i, the estimated annual cost of infant care is around $13,000, and almost $9,000 a year. or $745 each month for a 4-year-old. Putting a child in daycare can eat up as much as 29% of an average worker’s salary. Hawai‘i is one of 33 states where infant care is more expensive than college.


As the economy has begun to recover in 2022, the availability of affordable childcare has not rebounded as quickly. Many workers still have to choose between staying home to care for their kids or spending a large portion of their income towards daycare, if they can find it at all.


Healthcare is feeling the impact, and hospitals are struggling to find qualified labor, especially entry-level workers such as Nurse Aides. The need to fill positions is more acute than ever in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Workers who are already trained or have the capacity and desire to work in healthcare are essential to fulfilling the needs of and caring for an aging population.


As with any industry that is overwhelmingly represented by women, healthcare is being substantially affected by the childcare crisis. The healthcare labor force continues to be primarily women; the national average of female nurses is 86% while only 14% are male.


For those who have built their career goals around nursing, their natural first step into healthcare is that of a nurse aide or tech. These positions benefit both the employee, to gain experience at the bedside, and the employer, who relies on skilled labor as the backbone of patient care. However, the starting pay is typically under $20 per hour. Registered Nurses (RNs), who earn two to three times as much, are feeling the burden of childcare as well and are choosing to cut down hours or leave the profession to care for their child(ren).


The solution to this crisis is multifaceted and requires consistent and committed support from healthcare leadership and across all levels of government. The Hawai‘i Legislature is currently collecting data on the state’s childcare workforce. This is the first step to allocating funds to increase wages for childcare workers.


Healthcare organizations that provide a childcare subsidy or on-site childcare will have the edge over competitors when hiring and retaining healthcare workers. On-site childcare would decrease absenteeism and increase job retention and satisfaction. The convenience of on-site childcare centers will provide employees with peace of mind knowing that their child(ren) are well cared for, they are able to give excellent care to their patients.


Written by Amy Hebenstreit, MBA, BS, RN, CCRN

October 4, 2022

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