On Thursday February 10, 2022, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a subcommittee hearing on Recruiting, Revitalizing, and Diversifying: Examining the Health Care Workforce Shortage. Witnesses were:

Dr. Margaret Flinter, Senior Vice President and Clinical Director, Community Health Center, Inc., Middletown, CT who focused on the loss of primary care providers.  She suggested greater use and support for fellowships for nurse practitioners.

Rachel Greszler, Research Fellow, the Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC  focused attention on the overall workforce shortages saying that “49% of businesses have opening they cannot fill, with 1 in 3 workers quitting in 2021.” She called for a need to expand health care resources such as telemedicine, expanding graduate program forgiveness, and decrease paperwork citing “58% of doctors state paperwork as large barrier in patient care.”

 Dr. Reynold Verret, President, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA, testified that to diversify health care we need to reach the first generation families while expanding pathways of outreach to student families.  He also proposed expanded federal grants, reimbursement for loans, and to fully fund health care funds and research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s).

Norma Quinones, Nursing Services Manager and National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement (NIMAA)talked about NIMAA programs that allow students to work part-time while completing the program.

During the question period, Ranking Member Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) cited major concerns on workforce shortage with “18% of health care workers quitting in October of 2021 and 31% reporting desires to quit.” He also suggested there is an impact of vaccine mandates, a lack of competition within the industry. In response Rachel Greszler said that mandates had an impact on workforce.  She also argued that vaccination status should be left up to the states.

Senator Baldwin (D-WI) discussed the diminishing workforce because of nurses aging out and subsequently decreasing faculty members for incoming healthcare nurse. Dr. Flinter stated that a large issue with faculty aging out and a shortage on primary care is due to specialization.

Regarding the role of HBCUs, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) indicated that he is working on a bi-partisan bill (The John Lewis National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Endowment Revitalization Act) to increase research standing for HBCU’s.

Although there was not a large focus on child welfare initiatives, testimony and concerns in Thursday’s hearing was an echo of recent hill meetings surrounding the youth mental health crisis. CWLA would urge policymakers to consider the need for adolescent psychiatrists and pediatric care within conversations surrounding the health care workforce shortage in future responses to this issue.