Health Workforce Challenges
California faces a shortage of health professionals in disciplines such as primary care, dentistry, geriatrics, nursing, allied health, public health, home health, long term care, mental health, and health administration. The gap will become increasingly acute with the addition of over 5 million California residents to be insured under national health reform. The current workforce is not enough.
The lack of a coordinated and evidence-based approach to workforce planning at the state and regional level results in the unnecessary expenditure of millions of dollars by health professions employers and health professions education institutions. Examples of issues contributing to unnecessary expenditures include, but are not limited to the following:
- Competition among health professions education institutions in CA and at national level for small pool of under-represented candidates meeting traditional admissions criteria.
- High attrition among CA higher education students in pre-health track due to inadequate preparation in urban and rural public schools
- High turnover due to competition for small pool of clinicians in region, yielding excess expenditures for hiring and orientation and reduced productivity
- High percentage of contractual engagement (most often for nursing) due to periodic shortages caused by mis-alignment between workforce needs and regional training capacity.
- Loss of investments in career development for culturally competent providers among community health centers and other safety net institutions due to recruitment by mainstream providers.
- Slow start and/or failure of pipeline programs due to lack of information on programmatic innovations, strategies to leverage resources/stakeholder engagement, and timely investments.
The State needs an unbiased broker and convener—one with the expertise and experience to work with a diverse spectrum of stakeholders to create positive momentum. CHWA was launched on June 11, 2009, and has selected a number of near term priorities, including:
Work collaboratively with the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development to develop a health workforce data clearinghouse (authorized by Senate Bill 139) and identify gaps in data and information to be addressed. Other inquiries include the development of regional maps that graphically describe the current status of health workforce pipelines (incl. engagement and roles of diverse stakeholders), and analyses of gaps between the capacity of current programs and current and projected regional needs.
Research and coordination of efforts to fill gaps in student readiness. Examples include establishing links between K-12 and higher education to enhance curricula and expose students to the breadth of opportunities, replication of regional model high school health science programs, developing uniform pre-health science curricula at the undergraduate level, and strengthening articulation between all higher education institutions in California.
Identify and communicate emerging innovations in delivery systems, matching academic production and employer needs. A special working group brings together multiple health professions employers to examine current and projected needs given technological advances and the implementation of national health reform.
Foster shared learning across sectors through partnerships and technical assistance with current and emerging workforce initiatives to build efficiency. Examples are showcased at each quarterly meeting.
Coordinate and support for the CA Health IT workforce initiative to improve an effective IT workforce approach.
Who is CHWA?
The Alliance is an active partnership of key health players in California to support the overall needs of work force demand. CHWA acts as an unbiased broker to create positive momentum in health workforce development.
CHWA includes over 100 members from educational institutions, health professions employers, federal/state/local agencies, and constituent organizations. The breadth of membership enables the Alliance to serve as an ideal platform to increase knowledge, coordinate strategies, rapidly disseminate innovations, and establish shared agendas for policy advocacy and institutional reform.
CHWA has several intersectoral committees working on near term priorities. The partnership meets quarterly to dialogue among sectors and hear about progress on the priority areas. The partnership has raised approximately $460,000 to date from health sector employers and foundations towards a total of $1 million needed for its 18-month launch period. During this period, a sustainability strategy will be developed to ensure stable funding for specified functions.