Sunita Mutha, MD FACP
Professor of Clinical Medicine
Director of the Center for the Health Professions
University of California, San Francisco
If you follow the headlines about the healthcare workforce, concerns about people shortages, unmet training needs, and maldistribution are very familiar. Digging a little deeper, we start to understand the complexity and nuances of the issues: Are workers’ skills being used to maximum potential? Where do new categories of workers, including lay health workers, fit into the picture? How does workforce training need to transform to meet the need for care of complex chronic conditions? How can teams of health workers best organize to deliver the necessary care? How do we plan for an aging healthcare workforce? How can technology enhance access to care?
These real issues are in need of thoughtful action and their importance now should not surprise us given the increasing demand for care resulting from two important trends: an aging and more diverse society and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The need to identify solutions for our workforce needs presents an exciting opportunity to reimagine care, and is also fraught with some challenges. The challenges include: shifting from a mindset of who is available to what is needed; overcoming convictions about who can and should do what; redesigning training so that incumbent health care workers are equipped with the skills needed to improve equity, quality and safety; and investing in short- and long-term strategies to cultivate the necessary human capital to overcome shortages. Addressing these challenges will require many strategies including coordinated programs that use technology to overcome geographic constraints, new approaches to teach health workers to practice in teams, and accelerated adoption and spread of effective strategies.
Strategies such as these requires a hub, a focal place that can synthesize knowledge, gather evidence, create conversations that generate ideas and collaborations, and inform the supporting policies that are needed for these strategies. This is the role the Center for the Health Professions can play, and is the role that the Center is playing. This month’s newsletter offers insights into how the Center is serving as a hub for making sense of workforce change and informing action. As we grow this role in the coming year, we invite you to collaborate with us.