AHA: 12 ways Congress can support the healthcare workforce

As the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions begins to develop bipartisan legislation to curb the healthcare workforce crisis, the American Hospital Association is urging it to take precise measures to sustainably address the "national staffing emergency that could jeopardize access to high-quality, equitable care for patients," according to a March 20 letter.

On behalf of its 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other healthcare organizations, the AHA cited key drivers of the ongoing workforce crisis including challenges unearthed by the pandemic, a rapidly aging workforce, elevated anxiety and burnout levels as well as nursing and medical school faculty shortages. 

"Addressing well-being cannot be entirely isolated from the other efforts to improve the work lives and well-being of the healthcare workforce, including reducing unnecessary administrative burdens, mitigating workplace violence and expanding access to behavioral healthcare," the organization wrote to committee Chair Sen. Bernie Sanders and ranking member Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD.

As such, the AHA outlined 12 key actions Congress can take to alleviate the burdens plaguing the healthcare workforce including by: 

  1. Supporting well-being initiatives and behavioral health projects with grant funding.

  2. Creating a federal law to protect healthcare workers from violence by passing the Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act.

  3. Providing more funding for behavioral health services, streamlining licensure processes and reducing barriers to remote services for professionals in the field.

  4. Thoroughly investigating reports of anticompetitive behavior from travel nursing agencies.

  5. Avoiding creating mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, which the AHA argues "limit innovation and threaten to exacerbate healthcare access."

  6. Continuing flexible regulation of new technologies and supporting pilot testing initiatives for technological advances in the healthcare workforce.

  7. Investing in nursing faculty and education.

  8. Providing loan repayment programs, robust scholarships and support for apprenticeships.

  9. Reinstating the funding for the National Health Service Corps.

  10. Increasing graduate medical student residency slots.

  11. Providing support for foreign-trained healthcare workers.

  12.  Increasing diversity efforts across the healthcare workforce.

Taking the above actions on a policy level will curb the workforce shortage and bolster key areas of the healthcare system to support it in meaningful ways for both its patients and workers, the AHA asserts.

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