WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The healthcare worker industry faces the challenge of workforce shortages across the country. Lawmakers want to know what solutions are there to boost the workforce.
“We’ve got a major crisis in healthcare workforce,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said.
Sanders said the healthcare workforce shortage is forcing hospitals in his state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on travel nurses.
“Is that in fact just a Vermont problem, or is that a Maine problem, is that a national problem,” Sander asked.
“It’s very much a national problem. The traveling nurse situation that you described, you’re exactly right,” the University of New England President Dr. James Herbert said.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates the U.S. will face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. Experts say burnout, especially from the pandemic, has heavily contributed to the issue.
“For those frontline nurses and those front-line physicians, they can never get away from the pandemic,” Oschner Health Chief Academic Officer Dr. Leonardo Seoane said.
Sanders said the lack of healthcare workers has also contributed to underrepresentation.
“What is the impact of that,” Sanders asked.
“When the healthcare workforce reflects the population they care for, outcomes are better.” Meharry Medical College President Dr. James Hildreth said.
Both Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) say finding a solution may require bringing in workers from other countries.
“Our government is just not doing the interviews necessary to bring people in that would help dramatically reduce our nursing shortage,” Romney said.
“What could we do with an immigration reform that’s focused on healthcare or other critical workforce areas,” Kaine asked.
“Frankly we need to encourage immigration,” Herbert said.
Sanders promised his committee is now working on legislation to address the shortage.