Public health professor develops tool to identify health care worker shortages

Researchers in the Milken Institute School of Public Health developed a tool that estimates each state’s need for health care workers to fight the pandemic, according to a public health school release Thursday.

The researchers received a $450,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to develop the State Health Workforce Deficit Estimator, which predicts worker shortages and surpluses based on factors like infection rates and health workforce attrition, the release states. Patricia Pittman, the director of the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity who helped develop the model, said the tool is the first of its kind and can be adapted to predict workforce needs in future epidemics.

“Ultimately, the information gleaned from this model will pave the way toward solutions to anticipate and prevent problems by shoring up just-in-time capacity,” she said in the release.

The researchers used data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to estimate demand for health care services and American Hospital Association and publicly available datasets to predict available workforce supply, according to the release.

The team examined the availability of “key” Intensive Care Unit personnel like respiratory therapists and critical care nurses trained to treat critically ill patients and plan to prepare analyses of five additional health care professions needed for COVID-19 care, the release states.

The modeling tool could help political officials determine how to meet health workforce demands during the pandemic, according to the release. States like New York and Illinois are “aggressively” calling on retired health professionals to treat patients during the pandemic while others are waiving training requirements or extending licensure expiration dates, the release states.

“This tool will help public health, state and federal leaders plan for the health care workforce we all need to keep us all safe during this pandemic and in the future,” Pittman said.

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