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Addressing the Health Care Workforce Shortage

February 16, 2023

A national panel of health care leaders urged federal lawmakers to take action to address the health care workforce shortage that affects communities across the U.S.

On Thursday, the panel spoke before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) to discuss the ways the health care workforce shortage affects health care and the next steps to improve the workforce pipeline.

“There is no simple solution to the health care shortage, and it’s going to take a variety of initiatives to solve the problem,” said James E.K. Hildreth Sr., PhD, MD, president and CEO, Meharry Medical College.

Among the highlights from the hearing:

  • Demographics:  The average nurse’s age in the U.S. is 54, and 19 percent are 65 or older, said Sarah Szanton PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
  • Pandemic trend:  Applications to nursing schools have been trending upward, but the pandemic decreased academic preparedness for high school students entering nursing programs and the pass rates for nurses taking the licensure exam, said Douglas Staiger, PhD, professor, Dartmouth College.
  • Need for diversity:  A health care workforce that reflects the population it serves results in better outcomes.
  • Across the board:  The shortage of nurses includes a need for nurse faculty to educate the next generation of nurses, the panelists said.
  • Quotable:  “As a country, we need people to become new nurses and we need to retain current nurses, and there’s many steps to both,” Szanton said.

HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (D–Vermont) noted that he intends to produce legislation to address the health care workforce shortage.

HAP continues to advocate for policies and legislation that will grow Pennsylvania’s health care workforce.

Last month, HAP released a workforce survey indicating more than 3 in 10 positions for some of the key professionals who make up patient care teams in Pennsylvania hospitals were vacant at the end of last year. HAP also outlined its full policy recommendations to address our workforce crisis, with a focus on:

  • Prioritizing health care talent infrastructure
  • Supporting health care workers
  • Strengthening the health care community

For more information about HAP’s federal advocacy, contact John Myers, vice president, federal advocacy.