The future of healthcare and improved patient outcomes relies on a competent workforce and a prepared talent pipeline. Three in four employers cite challenges in hiring, and the healthcare industry is most impacted by the talent shortage. Providing high-quality healthcare is dependent on high-quality education pathways and economic opportunities for those entering the field.
Healthcare advocates should be more readily focused on prioritizing workforce development and education that is skills-based, innovative and meaningful to learners, job seekers and employers. All of us depend on healthcare organizations and the people they employ.
Education provides a great opportunity to champion healthcare as the magnet sector for the next generation of frontline workers. Many institutions are working to address the nationwide shortage of healthcare workers—a problem even before the pandemic exacerbated systemic deficiencies and increased burnout among our healthcare workers—but more can be done.
New and existing partnerships between higher education institutions and healthcare organizations should be mutually beneficial to both sectors. Employer-informed curricula tied to talent needs and industry demands generate improved postgraduate outcomes as learners are provided with training and development that support and encourage their success and lead to the advancement of innovation in the field. At the end of the day, healthcare is both an in-demand field for jobs and an essential service industry that every person will access in some way during their life.
State support of these types of collaborative partnerships is crucial. Future Ready Oregon is a historic $200 million investment package administered primarily by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Future Ready Oregon aims to strengthen Oregon’s economic competitiveness, advance a more equitable workforce system and increase economic prosperity for all Oregonians through grant-funded programs and strategic initiatives, including the Healthcare Industry Consortium. The investments center the needs of historically underserved and underrepresented populations by supporting innovative, accessible education and training opportunities in key sectors of Oregon’s economy, including healthcare. The Healthcare Industry Consortium relies on a shared leadership model where education and training providers, industry leaders and employers, and community-based organizations work together to identify barriers to education, training and good-paying jobs and co-create solutions.
As a member of Future Ready Oregon’s Healthcare Industry Consortium representing the Hospital Association of Oregon, I help frame strategic policy and funding recommendations to address gaps and opportunities in addressing the workforce needs of the healthcare ecosystem through an equity lens. I also know our hospitals are working hard to fill their many open positions so they can continue caring for their communities. Using the education system to equip job seekers, especially historically marginalized individuals and communities, can help tackle enduring and systemic inequities in the healthcare system. It also offers a route to employment and economic mobility for Oregonians.
Skill-based workforce investments at both the state and federal levels should be a leading policy focus for leaders. To boost economic development, states should understand and bolster the interlocking priorities of employment and industry success through policy and partnerships. Filling job openings is not the only concern; reinforcing a healthcare infrastructure that can support people throughout their lives is essential. Doing so will require investments and strategies for delivering skills-aligned educational opportunities, and healthcare leaders are the exact influencers needed to support these efforts.