The Alliance for Health Policy concluded its 2023 Signature Series with a briefing on the health care workforce

On Wednesday, November 1, the Alliance for Health Policy hosted a public congressional briefing as the final event in the 2023 Signature Series. The briefing, “The Role of the U.S. Health Care Workforce in Achieving a Person-Centered Health System,” covered the current state of the health care workforce, identified key challenges that create barriers to advancing person-first care, and explored potential opportunities for policy change.

Panelists:

  • Sheila- Pradia Williams, MBA, Deputy Associate Administrator at the Bureau of Health Workforce, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
  • Patricia Pittman, Ph.D., Fitzhugh Mullan Professor of Health Workforce Equity, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University
  • April Joy Damian, Ph.D., MSc, Vice President and Director, Weitzman Institute
  • Murielle Beene, DNP, MBA, MPH, MS, RN-BC, Senior Vice President and Chief Health Informatics Officer, Trinity Health
  • Farida Ahmed, MHS, Associate Program Officer,  National Academy of Sciences

On workforce maldistribution:

  • Patricia Pittman, Ph.D.:COGME recommends about 40% of our physician workforce should be primary care. When we are graduating folks from the residency, it actually adds up to about 54%, but after the residency, it goes up to below 30%. We lose them through the specialization process. This is largely driven by the issue of income. We have a problem in the way we pay physicians; it’s driving the maldistribution by specialty. It also is driven by geography.”
  • April Damian, Ph.D., MSc: “Part of the challenge right now with us falling short of a person-first healthcare system is that leadership, as well as those who are patient-facing, don’t necessarily relate to or represent the lived experiences of the patient populations that they’re serving. It’s particularly true in marginalized and vulnerable populations.”

On lack of workforce retention:

  • Patricia Pittman, Ph.D.: “We know that in 2021 we had over a hundred thousand full-time nurses that left nursing and that most of those nurses were under 35. Most of that attrition happened in hospitals and the hospital vacancy rates continue to be really high. We know that 39% of nurses are planning to leave in the next year and 28% plan to reduce hours. Now, plans are not always materialized, but these are what people say in surveys. 60% of critical care nurses in ICUs are planning to leave in the next year. We have a real problem in terms of attrition. The number one reason that people say they’re leaving is inadequate staffing.”

On potential solutions: 

  • Farida Ahmed, MHS: “In 2022, the Surgeon General and [the NAM] president usually joked as it being like a one-two punch. [The Office of the Surgeon General] released the Advisory on building a thriving health workforce. We had the National Plan for Health Workforce Wellbeing. The vision of the national plan is that people are cared for by a health workforce that is thriving in an environment that fosters their wellbeing as they improve population health.”
  • Patricia Pittman, Ph.D.: “I think the main policy levels here are safe staffing ratios for hospitals. This can happen through Medicare, or it can happen through legislation at the state or at the federal level. We also need to measure staffing and staffing levels. We need to measure turnover, and we need to include it in comparative hospital statistics like HospitalCompare.”
  • Murielle Beene, DNP, MBA, MPH, MS, RN-BC: “We thought about the innovative approach that we can take together; we call our approach Together Team or Together Team Virtual Connected Care. It’s a three-person team, a novel care model comprised of a bedside RN, a care partner, and a virtual nurse. The value of working on the care team – people working together on this team balance workload across the team, using their professional judgment to work to their scope of practice.”

Thank you to the 2023 Signature Series sponsors for supporting this year’s programming. 

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