Published March 20, 2018
Volume 2, Number 3

East Bay Health Workforce Partnership Plans for

Future Needs

Health Workforce Partnership

By Hacienda Pulse Staff Writer

In August 2017, top education and healthcare leaders in California created a commision dedicated to strengthening the state’s health workforce. Healthcare leaders have reason to worry. As the new California Future Health Workforce Commission explains, “California’s population is growing, rapidly aging, and becoming increasingly diverse–trends that place an untenable burden on the state’s health workforce. The pipeline of caregivers, including doctors, nurses, therapists, and elder care specialists, has not kept pace with demand.”

The facts are stark. As the Baby Boomer generation ages and needs more care, many physicians and nurses are heading toward retirement age or expected to move out of the area. According to some experts, California will face an estimated shortage of 4,100 primary care clinicians by 2030.

The state also has one of the lowest ratios of registered nurses in the United States, ranking 46 out of 50 in 2013. California needs and will continue to need additional healthcare workers as well, including mental health specialists, medical assistants (MAs), community health workers (CHWs), and health navigator (HNs).  

The healthcare workforce problem is critical, according to the state commission. “Training for some health professionals takes many years and is very expensive. It is therefore urgent that state leaders act now to address future workforce challenges and to reduce the adverse effects on health access, cost, and outcomes.”

Healthcare employers in the East Bay agree that addressing the workforce challenge is urgent. That’s why a group of them, including two employers at Hacienda, started working on the issue–roughly one year before the state commission was created.

Workforce Challenges
In 2016, the East Bay Health Workforce Partnership (EBHWP) came into being. This employer-led partnership works closely with community and education leaders to meet healthcare workforce needs, expand opportunity for local residents, and strengthen the economic and social well-being of the East Bay, according to EBHWP.

EBHWP partners include the Alameda County Workforce Development Board, Alameda Health System, UC Berkeley School of Public Health, Contra Costa Community College District, and Roberts Enterprise Development Fund. Kaiser Permanente, which has its HealthConnect IT operations based at Hacienda, and John Muir Health, which operates an Outpatient Center in Hacienda with the San Ramon Regional Medical Center, are among the healthcare employers who are also partners of EBHWP and its work to develop local talent to meet future labor needs.

“We are a proud participant of the East Bay Health Workforce Partnership. Health care organizations coming together to take a regional approach to workforce shortages and needs, is incredibly important. The Partnership’s efforts to increase the pool of qualified, diverse health care workers to meet the regional demand in priority health professions not only benefits our regional health systems, but the community as well” notes Heather Kenward, Workforce Planning and Development - HR at John Muir Health.
Those needs are complex and challenging. While healthcare employers need a reliable supply of labor, they also need that labor to be well-trained and professional. When an EBHWP working group interviewed East Bay healthcare employers about professional development and training, the employers reported a number of problems.
“All but one respondent reported that newly hired MAs, CHWs, and HNs required additional training,” notes the EBHWP report, East Bay Health Workforce and Diversity Needs: Summary of Employer Interviews. Several community health centers “reported frustration with the amount of internal resources that are necessary to train MAs, CHWs, and HNs after hiring because these workers were often lacking key content and soft skills.”
The employers told the EBHWP that new hires frequently need additional training in electronic health record system usage, record keeping, health insurance knowledge, workflows and referral processes, and interviewing/coaching skills, according to the report.

“Allied health workers as a professional category often lack more than one skill when hired,” the report notes. “The majority of employers who responded to the survey noted that new hires required training in multiple skill areas. Among employers that reported the need for additional training: 88% of providers reported having to provide additional training in two or more skills for MAs, 100% of providers reported having to provide additional training in three or more skills for CHWs, and 80% of providers reported having to provide additional training in three or more skills for HNs.”

EBHWP has four work groups dedicated to specific areas of need. To create the greatest impact, these work groups focus on five priorities. Among the top priorities is increasing the pool of qualified, diverse health workers. One local employer told the EBHWP that “a culturally competent workforce is essential,” while another said, “diversity is of strategic importance.”                           
Other priorities include increasing the alignment of healthcare education and training to the needs of employers; systematically increasing work-based learning opportunities in health care for students of all ages; building a data-driving rationale for systems change, infrastructure development, and sustaining healthcare workforce initiatives; and developing and advocating for policy solutions that eliminate barriers to increasing workforce and education capacity, investment, and sustainability.

Working Toward a Brighter Future                    
One major response to the need for an educated and well-trained healthcare workforce is the EBHWP’s Primary Care CORPS initiative. Primary Care CORPS provides both in-person and online opportunities for students to explore primary care career options and engage with professionals in the field.

Primary Care CORPS helps connect healthcare students to job opportunities, internships, career resources, mentors and advising, clinical experience, and events such as symposiums and networking opportunities.

A series of webinars helps students learn more about primary care careers online, while the Health Care Pathway Programs offer students an in-person introduction to careers in health care. Students learn more about these careers through work-based learning experiences, classroom presentations, and other experiences at high schools, community colleges, and community-based organizations in the Bay Area.

EBHWP intends for Primary Care CORPS to “engage, provide resources, and support the next generation of health sector employees while ensuring a diverse, culturally competent and local workforce.”

Developing the skilled and diverse healthcare workforce needed by the greater Bay Area and Tri-Valley regions  will not be easy, but area employers such as Kaiser Permanente and John Muir are taking the issue seriously. So is EBHWP, which recently issued a new report called A Roadmap for Advancing the Allied Health Workforce in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties: Medical Assistants, Community Health Workers, and Health Navigators.

Local healthcare employers, community organizations, and other interested parties are invited to join EBHWP and take part in its work. Students considering a career in the healthcare field are also encouraged to join Primary Care CORPS to learn more about healthcare.

The Hacienda community as well as the greater Bay Area community have a stake in the healthcare workforce of the future. Fortunately, EBHWP and its healthcare employers and community partners are working to make that future brighter.

For more information about the East Bay Health Workforce Partnership, please visit www.ebhwp.org. For more information about Primary Care CORPS, please visit www.ebhwp.org/about-pc-corps. To read the latest reports from the East Bay Health Workforce Partnership, please visit www.ebhwp.org/research.