Task force seeks solutions to Alabama’s medical staff shortage

A tired nurse takes a break in a hallway. Floor image / Shutterstock.com

In response to a national trend, an Alabama legislature is exploring methods to shore up shortfalls that have emerged in the state’s health workforce pool in recent years.

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that about 20% of healthcare workers have left the field since the pandemic began. In Alabama, the trend has impacted a number of specific occupations, including certified nursing assistants, EMTs and EMTs, and licensed practical nurses for assisted living facilities.

In recent months, the Alabama Healthcare Workforce Task Force has met to look at ways to tighten the connection between college and university students and employers.

The task force was established in the 2022 Alabama legislature Joint Resolution of the Senate 62.

The task force’s most recent meeting, held Nov. 17, included a firm recommendation — to increase efforts with the Alabama Dental Association to bring programs to the state’s rural areas — and to discuss additional efforts in other health care professions with counselors .

Greg DiDonato with the company EBSCO Information Services was among the speakers at the meeting.

DiDonato discussed a pilot project in progress that aims to search college student data, work with state college and university training offices, and provide a database of job openings within the state for targeted healthcare positions.

The goal, according to DiDonato, is to get the database up and running in the first quarter of 2023.

“We’re going through the student records,” DiDonato said. “Ultimately, it’s about expanding the opportunities that you see outside of traditional job partnerships. We want to expand these possibilities.”

While online job boards regularly offer lists of available jobs, DiDonato said the pilot database project would create a more comprehensive, better organized, and user-friendly list of available jobs.

The meeting included a discussion of what state agencies and university officials can do to better allocate federal funds to the development of Alabama’s healthcare workforce.

A report shared at the meeting showed federal funding in Alabama is at times missing for a number of reasons, including a lack of collaboration and resources within the state government.

The task force’s goal is to undertake a comprehensive review of how to improve opportunities for the healthcare workforce – especially as some specific medical professions are inherently dependent on others.

“To me, the amount of work that has been done over the past few months and the amount of work that has been accomplished is amazing,” said the state Sen. April WeberR Brierfield, Task Force Chair.

As outlined in SJR62, the task force will meet for years to come – at least until 2026. The panel has been tasked with preparing annual reports to the state legislature on findings, conclusions, and possible legislative recommendations.

Republished with permission from The Center Square.