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Feds announce $346M to address worker shortages in health care

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Programs will add community health workers, nurses in primary care, other specialties, and public health.

Federal agencies hope to expand the health care workforce with grants to train new nurses and community health workers.

The U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL) and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a total of $346 million coming to pay for education and opportunities around the nation.

Community health workers

HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced $225.5 million for community health worker training and $40.7 million in public health scholarships. The money comes through the American Rescue Plan Act and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the administration of President Joe Biden “is committed to building a robust health workforce to make communities healthy.”

"Patients depend on community and public health workers for care and medical information,” Becerra said in a news release. “These investments will equip community and public health workers with the skill sets needed to provide effective community outreach, increase access to care, and assist individuals with critical prevention and treatment services.”

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HRSA awarding $225.5 million to 83 grantees, up to $3 million each, for the Community Health Worker Training Program, a multiyear track of training and apprenticeship for 13,000 community health workers that connect people to primary and other care in communities.

There are 29 recipients sharing $40.7 million through the Public Health Scholarship Program to pay for training in public health, including epidemiologists, according to HHS.

New nurses coming

The projected shortage of physicians in primary care and other specialties has made national news. The situation is not much better for nurses, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting at least 275,000 nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030. With 9% growth in opportunities, it is forecasted to be the nation’s fastest growing occupation from 2016 to 2026, according to DOL.

The program description acknowledged the toll the COVID-19 pandemic had on nursing in the health care sector.

“Many healthcare workers, nurses among them, have worked around the clock throughout the pandemic to care for those in need and save countless lives, often while risking their own health and well-being,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said in a news release. “Today, they face diminished ranks of colleagues to help shoulder these burdens as patients continue to depend on them. The funding opportunity announced today will support training and other programs to help advance workforce equity while bringing more nurses into the industry.”

The federal department has $80 million to pay for DOL Nursing Expansion Grant Program, which will instruct new nurses in acute care, ambulatory care, primary care, long-term care, and community and public health settings. The money, supplied through the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998, also will pay for experienced nurses to train to serve as instructors for nursing students.

DOL opened the grant application process on Oct. 3 and it will run through Jan. 6, 2023. Qualifying nonprofit organizations and institutes of higher can apply for up to $6 million for the program.

“Both training tracks can help contribute to adequate staffing in healthcare, which is important not only for the safety of patients, but also for the safety and long-term retention of nurses themselves,” the program description said.


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