Meeting future health needs now
Oct. 31, 2013 College News - Peter Layde, MD, MSc, knew in 2008 that Wisconsin faced a coming shortage of health care and public health workers due to an aging population with growing health care needs.
What Dr. Layde did not know at the time was the scope of the problem. No one did. So he was not surprised when he received a call from Tim Size, executive director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative.
“He had been coordinating a group very interested in coming up with better data on the public health workforce,” Dr. Layde said. “There was also a task force through state government that sought to improve health employment, and there were a lot of people interested in that.”
“They realized that they were basically working in the dark,” Dr. Layde said, “because they didn’t have any ideas about the future needs for health care professionals and public health professionals.”
The Wisconsin Health Workforce Data Collaborative received funding from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP) in 2009 to respond to this need for data to guide decisions on education, training and recruitment efforts. HWPP is a component of Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin (AHW), a fund with the mission of improving the health of the people of Wisconsin.
While the Collaborative focused on a number of professions related to health care and public health, a major initiative was to better understand the state of the nursing workforce.
“Through our partners,” Dr. Layde said, “we were able to deliver a survey to all of the nurses who were applying for licensure. And we got very close to 50,000 nurses surveyed.”
The data from this survey allowed the Collaborative to define the scope of the looming nurse shortage. Without significant changes in the numbers of nurses graduating in Wisconsin, the data analysts found that the state will be short more than 5,000 nurses by 2020 and more than 20,000 nurses by 2035.
In addition to the focus on nursing, the project partners helped address health professional shortages in other ways, including providing information to help counties apply for and secure Health Professional Shortage Designation Area (HPSA) status.
“The work we did had an impact on the ability of eight counties to address their needs for talented health care workers,” Dr. Layde said.
All of the information produced by the project partners will continue to help Wisconsin train the talent it will need to meet the growing need for health care.
“We believed that, by building up the health care and public health infrastructure,” Dr. Layde said, “we could help many people in the future.”
Dr. Layde and the project partners saw that planning for this future starts now. Through this project, they improved the quality of the information available to those who will guide and shape that future.
In honor of MCW’s 120th anniversary, we will be sharing stories like this one that highlight the College’s contributions to creating healthier communities. A new web page commemorating MCW’s 120th Anniversary includes links to a display of milestones in our history and a list of nearly 200 significant research discoveries made by faculty physicians and scientists throughout the years. These discoveries have saved lives and improved health in our community, in Wisconsin and beyond.