This episode of the MGMA Business Solutions Podcast features Jessica Langley, chairwoman of the board and Executive Director of Education & Advocacy for the National Healthcareer Association, Inc.
The NHA is part of Ascend Learning, which is a family of brands that supports healthcare, wellness, education and safety. Collaboratively, the NHA’s mission is to help provide software-based, data-driven educational support that accelerates learning, advances job readiness and enables employment success.
MGMA Sr. Editor Daniel Williams, MBA, MSEM, sat down with Jessica to discuss healthcare workforce shortages and the latest strategies to combat them.
Editor’s note: The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Q. What are the ways in which the NHA is reaching its mission?
A. At the core of our business, we offer eight nationally accredited certification exams and preparation resources for allied health professionals, such as medical assistants, phlebotomist, and pharmacy technicians. To date we have issued more than 1.25 million certifications. We also partner with high school CTE programs, post-secondary education institutions, healthcare employers and workforce development agencies to help implement certifications and healthcare learning resources into their existing programs.
Q. Looking at the data, what are the latest workforce shortage statistics telling you?
A. If you look at headlines you will see the healthcare workforce shortage is being called a crisis or an epidemic. We know that the healthcare workforce is growing at about 13% on average, with many professions growing even faster, but it has a churn percentage of 22, so right there we see an obvious gap.
To be more exact, about 85% of healthcare facilities lack allied professionals, which make up 60% of our healthcare workforce. We need to double new nurse graduates by 2025 to help with the nursing shortage and we are looking at a potential shortage of 124,000 physicians by 2034.
In addition, our health systems are spending upwards of $64 billion dollars in temporary staffing and in an effort to retain employees, they are spending another $27 billion on learning and development — that’s a lot of money indirectly being invested in the healthcare workforce.
Q. What strategies are there to address these issues?
A. The strategies are focused primarily on supporting the ambulatory space and allied health professions. In addition, NHA is well-positioned to support our partners with these initiatives.
First, rethink/evaluate HS and CTE health science programs for skill and competency alignment to entry level roles. Within high school CTE, there are core career clusters or pathways, and the health science pathway is one of the largest clusters. With post-secondary enrollments being down, we need to recognize, understand, and leverage the quality education and training that is taking place in CTE that often leads to an industry recognized, accredited credential. These high school graduates can then move right into a high demand career or use their skills as a foundation to higher level academic healthcare training.
Second, build stronger strategic partnerships. The state of healthcare right now requires an “all-hands-on-deck” approach. When we meet with industry leaders and stakeholders, we often hear that there is a disconnect between educators, workforce and employers. They may not all understand the gaps, needs, etc. and if there was more collaboration perhaps, they could identify potential tools, solutions, funding, or initiatives that are beneficial for all parties.
Third, elevate and upskill your best/most loyal employees to fill in-demand roles. We can all identify someone who is a stellar worker or employee, for various reasons. What if they are not YOUR employees, but they do work within your organization? What if they want to expand their skills or move into a different area that has more opportunity for growth? The goal would be to maximize the best, most loyal and responsible employees and train them with the skills needed to fill areas that are most critical.
Fourth, accelerate the training to practice process. Develop and implement skills-based training in order to effectively onboard and train new employees quicker.
Lastly, [find] opportunity for career growth through career pathways. Across all segments of the workforce, the top reason that people want to stay with a company is connected to career development or growth opportunities. It is the same in healthcare, and in many cases with allied health professionals there is not a clearly defined path for growth. NHA is working with employers to identify what areas that AH professionals can assist and excel in and then looking to design career pathways, with foundational content and skills competencies, that employers can use to help retain their staff. Oftentimes this leads to increased pay, additional credentials (or micro-credentials), and increased job and patient satisfaction.
Q. Among those strategies, is there one that you’re most optimistic about at the present time — one where you’re seeing inroads being made?
A. I would have to say it’s the need to accelerate the training to practice process. Employers are desperate for an educational or training blueprint and resources that outline and implement skills-based training in order to effectively onboard and train new employees quicker.
Q. You have also mentioned previously that a key to success is collaboration with industry partners. What do you envision these collaborations looking like and what are next steps to making them a reality?
As I mentioned before, we have to take an “all-hands-on-deck” approach — educators, employers, workforce, policy makers — all need to work together to combat our current workforce shortage. I believe that having a relationship with NHA is an important one for practice managers/administrators to have because we can assist with connecting them to other stakeholders, provide them with the necessary learning resources to help skill-up individuals, assist with standardizing training and competencies, and ensuring that they ultimately have competency. Certified workers can also grow with NHA and their organization into higher level roles, but we can’t do it alone. We measure our success in the collective success that comes from true partners who share our passion for shaping a better future in healthcare.