On Feb. 21, the Evidence-Based Health Policy Project, based out of University of Wisconsin – Madison, held a briefing in the state Capitol on policies to support the health care workforce in Wisconsin. The briefing began with an introduction from Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, who shared his committee’s work this session and potential legislative study committee work on workforce issues. Feyen highlighted apprenticeship bills that will give young people exposure to the workforce at an earlier age and said providers are crucial to Wisconsin’s health care system and overall workforce.
Following Feyen’s introduction, Dr. Patricia Pittman of the George Washington University Health Workforce Institute presented on emerging issues in the health workforce. Pittman’s data showed a decline in physician primary care providers but an increase in advanced practice staff such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Pittman said state policy is vital to workforce development and recommended a focus on teamwork between physicians, advanced practice staff, and support staff in future policies.
Next, a panel of experts focused on health care practice workforce trends in Wisconsin. Richelle Andrae from Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce spoke about workforce trends in Wisconsin and possible solutions. Andrae echoed Pittman’s comments on team-based care and recommended Wisconsin work not only to increase its number of clinicians, but also to utilize its current workforce via collaboration and telehealth. Ann Zenk from the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) presented data from WHA’s annual workforce report and recommended teamwork and technology to solve Wisconsin’s provider shortages. Sara Koliner from the Department of Health Services discussed the geographical shortages in the state and suggested solutions including visa waivers for international medical students, loan repayment programs, community health grants, graduate medical education grants, and Medicaid bonus payments for providers.
The next panel focused on medical education in Wisconsin. Dr. Susan Zahner from UW-Madison School of Nursing discussed shortages in the nurse workforce and recommended solutions including passing the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Modernization Act, collecting more workforce data, offering continuing education programs for nurses, and hiring school nurses. Dr. William Hueston from Medical College of Wisconsin discussed his school’s development of regional campuses with three-year medical and pharmacy programs and pipeline programs to promote diversity in the health care workforce. The final speaker of the program, Danielle Yancey from UW Native American Center for Health Professionals (NACHP), also spoke about promoting a diverse workforce. Yancey advocated for increasing health equity across the state by providing underrepresented medical students with loan forgiveness and scholarship programs, graduate medical education grants, and funding for NACHP and other similar programs.