Updated Jun 15, 2023 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the health preparedness workforce

On Thursday, June 15, in Washington, D.C., Axios health care editor Tina Reed hosted conversations examining ways to bolster the health workforce and improve pandemic preparedness. Guests included HRSA administrator Carole Johnson, Howard University Hospital vice president and chief nursing officer Dr. India Medley, and Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.). A View from the Top sponsored segment featured Infectious Diseases Society of America treasurer Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo.

Carole Johnson discussed how HRSA is allocating resources and investments toward clinical training programs and employee well-being to build retention in the health care workforce.

  • On growing investment in the well-being of the health care workforce: “For a long time, our investments in the health care workforce have been, appropriately, focused on growing and diversifying the workforce, helping to encourage people to practice in tiny communities. For the first time in the American Rescue Plan, we got new resources to invest in the health and well-being of the current workforce, and so really focused on retention.”

Dr. India Medley highlighted how the pandemic changed the experience of being a health care worker and also provided lessons learned for future preparedness plans.

  • On preparing for the next public health threat: “We want everyone, every worker in our hospital regardless of the discipline, to be prepared. So it was not like, ‘okay, that’s over, we can move on and relax’. And it’s not that we want everybody to be stressed out, but we just want everybody to realize that we’ve now taken it to another level, and this other level is the new normal.”

Sen. Tina Smith explained how pressures on the health care workforce worsened during the pandemic and have contributed to widespread staffing shortages.

  • On how staffing shortages impact patients: “It creates just a much more pressurized and challenging system. I mean, I think that in this country we have a lot of challenges getting people access to health care. I think health care is a human right, and there are many, many ways in which people just don’t have access to care. But if you think about the challenges in a space where there aren’t enough people working in emergency rooms or you have to wait a long time to get an appointment, even if you’re not struggling with lack of insurance or other barriers to care, it just creates a lot more challenge.”

In the View from the Top segment, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo shared how shortages of infectious disease physicians across the country pose challenges for people who need specialized care or live in rural communities.

  • “I’ll give you a little bit of my experience as a person who works in Birmingham, Alabama, where we have over 80% of counties who do not have an infectious disease physician. And that is true throughout the United States. So infectious disease physicians tend to be concentrated in metropolitan, highly dense urban areas…so the challenge in a place like where I live is to get the kind of care that we provide, which, as I intimated before, can be highly specialized.”

Thank you to IDSA for sponsoring this event.

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