Staffing challenges continue to challenge all health sectors, especially the demand for nurses, as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to burnout and forcing more workers to retire.
What do you think should be a priority for strengthening the health workforce from the perspective of a health care provider?
Dr. David Gifford: We have a deficit at all levels. Nurses, Administrators, Social Work, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy. It takes a whole team to care for the grave elderly. We need to create incentives for people to work in this sector, because everyone is fighting for staff. This includes the ability to pay higher wages, but we also need to improve childcare so people can work.
Darryl Robinson: Deficit is a consequence of insufficient development and training of specialists. The burnout part is a function where people, who are the main workers, are asked to run towards the fire and stay on fire without any interruption. … There are programs that we can carry out as employers, but there must be other actions of a public nature.
What about educational solutions? Many schools, especially nursing schools, face challenges in finding enough teachers. What about collaboration?
Gifford: We’ve worked with universities and community colleges on curriculum, but often graduates end up being picked up by hospitals and other sectors because they pay higher salaries and have higher benefits. … This is why we need some incentive for graduates to come and work in the long-term care sector.
Robinson: Oh sure. We all have to do our part. CommonSpirit is working with Creighton University, Baylor University and Morehouse School of Medicine to reach more caregivers. … Obviously, the cost of education is enormous. So being able to enroll and go to school and then stay there is a real challenge.
What policy proposals can help develop the health professions?
Gifford: When the countryside was short on primary health care workforce, legislators provided loan forgiveness for primary health care physicians. When there were problems with access to downtown areas, they funded community health centers and offered forgiveness for loans to health workers who work there. It’s time to do the same for long term care.
Robinson: I think that more investment in STEM would be huge. We also need programs that encourage young people from disadvantaged communities to learn more about health care and what we do, and more programs that empower people to volunteer and introduce the industry.