Strengthening the Workforce in an Evolving Healthcare System

Steve Wehn, AMN Healthcare
Steve Wehn, AMN Healthcare

The Healthcare Leadership Council hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill that addressed the need for a healthcare workforce that can meet rising patient demands in a constantly-changing value-based healthcare system.  As the population ages, the baby boom generation is experiencing a higher volume of healthcare needs, necessitating a modernization of the healthcare workforce.  The shortage of healthcare providers is not a new problem, but it’s a worsening one as societal changes place greater stress on healthcare providers.

Steve Wehn, of AMN Healthcare noted that shortages are regional, but that as the population ages, more healthcare providers are looking to retire.  He said 150,000 nurses are entering the healthcare system each year, but the number of those retiring is roughly the same.  One set of solutions mentioned by Wehn involved the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and Nurse Licensure Compact, which both expedite the process of allowing healthcare professionals to practice across state lines.  The former has 18 states in its agreement, and the latter has 25.  In addition to these steps taken by the states, Wehn said that it is also necessary to ensure nurse practitioners and physician assistants are able to practice to the full extent of their training.

Crystal Lennartz, representing McKesson’s Health Mart independent pharmacies, said that pharmacists are underutilized, especially considering the reach of pharmacies in every community.  She emphasized that physicians and other providers are reimbursed for services under Medicare Part B, but pharmacists are not.  The lack of reimbursement limits patient access to the services that a pharmacist is capable of offering.  Dynamic Congressional Budget Office scoring is necessary to fully demonstrate savings achieved by increasing access to cost-effective early intervention services.

Dr. Matthew Jansen of the Marshfield Clinic, promoted the clinic’s commitment to training healthcare providers.  He stated that where medical students graduate, geographically, frequently determines where they work, and participating in 62 academic contracts is how Marshfield Clinic provides a pipeline to its rural hospitals.  He mentioned that rural hospitals need the resident allotment “cap” removed so that more staff can be recruited.  Physician and nurse shortages are much more severe in rural areas, and the rules surrounding medical education need to acknowledge this, said Dr. Jansen.

Click here for briefing materials