A qualified, engaged and diverse workforce is the heart of America’s health care system, Robyn Begley, AHA senior vice president of workforce and chief nursing officer, testified May 17 at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittees on Health and Oversights and Investigations joint oversight hearing
Begley, who also is the CEO of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, discussed how long-building structural changes in the health care workforce combined with the profound toll of the pandemic have left hospitals and health systems facing a national staffing emergency that could jeopardize access to care. She discussed the shortages of nurses, doctors and other health professionals, as well as the troubling increases in acts of violence directed toward health care workers.
“To address these challenges, hospitals and health systems across the country have taken many actions,” Begley said. “These include collaborating to expand training opportunities, launching nurse and allied health professional education programs, reimagining workforce models, investing in upskilling workers, and providing nontraditional support for health care workers.”
Begley also said that the health care workforce challenges need immediate attention from all levels of government, and shared actions that Congress could take to support the health care workforce. 
Among other actions, Congress should:

  • Protect health care workers from violence by passing the bipartisan Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees, or the SAVE Act, which would provide federal protections for health care workers against violence and intimidation. It also would authorize much needed funding for additional staff training, security technology, and other resources hospitals need to prevent violence and protect caregivers more effectively. 
  • Address nursing shortages by investing in nursing education and faculty.
  • Provide scholarships and loan repayment.
  • Reauthorize and increase funding for the National Health Service Corps. 
  • Increase graduate medical education slots.

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