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Federal Lawmakers Focus on Rebuilding Health Care Workforce

Hearing highlights ‘faces behind the masks,’ workforce challenges

October 28, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the need to support our health care workforce.

This week, the House Energy & Commerce Health subcommittee hosted a hearing about a few of the federal proposals that would offer support for caregivers, providers, and others in the health care community.

The hearing comes as health care workers face a staggering mental health toll from the pandemic. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey indicated that more than six in ten (62%) frontline health care workers report that worry and stress related to the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health.

In a statement to the subcommittee, the American Hospital Association (AHA) emphasized the need to support the nation’s health care workforce.

The AHA also highlighted its advocacy for the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (H.R. 1667). The legislation would authorize grant-funded programs for behavioral health services for frontline health care workers, study burnout and strategies for resiliency, and coordinate a campaign to help health care workers seek assistance when needed.

“The AHA urges Congress to prioritize funding that supports the health care workforce needs of the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future,” the AHA said in its statement. “This includes lifting the cap on Medicare-funded physician residencies, boosting support for nursing schools and faculty, expediting visas for qualified international nurses and supporting programs that address clinician well-being.”

Among the key takeaways from the hearing:

  • Pre-pandemic problem:  The pandemic has amplified health care worker shortages that existed before COVID-19 and has intensified challenges related to burnout and resiliency
  • Federal proposals:  A host of workforce proposals are moving through Congress related to loan repayment programs, the need for more infectious disease specialists, diversity initiatives, and mental and behavioral health education and training grants
  • Rural Health:  The pandemic has presented unique challenges for rural health care providers and staff. Support for telehealth may help connect patients with care during the pandemic and beyond

HAP joins organizations across the nation raising awareness about the need to support our health care workforce. Through its Health Care Talent Task Force, HAP is guiding the development of strategies that will help attract and retain the health care talent pool.

HAP will continue to advocate for legislation at the state and federal level that will bolster the health care workforce and support our health care heroes.

For more information about HAP’s workforce priorities, contact Mary Marshall, HAP’s director, workforce and professional development, or Laura Stevens Kent, senior vice president of advocacy and external affairs.