Future Ready Oregon, OHSU initiatives aim to bolster Oregon’s healthcare workforce

Like most states, Oregon faces significant challenges in growing and supporting its healthcare workforce. Industry leaders discussed some useful tools for addressing those challenges during last month’s 2022 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference.

 

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Jennifer Purcell, Director of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s Future Ready Oregon program, discussed the program, which was created following the passage of Senate Bill 1545 this year. Future Ready Oregon is a $200 million investment package that supports the education and training Oregonians need for family-wage careers.

“The disruption created by the pandemic exposed significant disparities in how our workforce system serves historically underserved Oregonians and vulnerable communities, including people of color, people with low incomes, and rural communities,” Purcell said. “Heading into the 2022 legislative session, it was clear that we needed to reconsider Oregon’s workforce and talent development system through the lens of equity and racial justice.”

Future Ready funds (Workforce Ready Grants) are available through future workforce development boards that distribute funds to nonprofit community-based organizations, educational institutions, labor organizations, and other workforce service providers. 

“Investments will expand registered apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, and youth programs,” Purcell said. “Workforce Ready Grants will specifically inform and incentivize collaboration in education and training pathways in the healthcare, manufacturing, and technology spaces.

Investments emphasize recruitment, retention, and career advancement opportunities while prioritizing key populations.”

Dr. Troy Larkin, Executive Director of Nursing Outcomes & Education at Providence Nursing Institute, said the state is also experiencing a nursing workforce shortage. 

“We have turnover that’s higher than I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of nursing,” Larkin said. “This was not created by COVID. It was exacerbated by COVID.”

Dr. Paul Gorman, Assistant Dean of Rural Medical Education at Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) Department of Medicine, discussed some initiatives the college is working on to try to bolster the state’s healthcare workforce. 

The Wy’east Post-Baccalaureate Pathway helps American Indian and Alaska Native students excel as medical students and physicians through academic preparation for medical school, professional training for medical school, and culturally relevant experiential learning.

“It recruits nationwide,” Gorman said. “They prepare students to excel as medical students and physicians by providing a whole suite of pieces. We’ve seen a couple cohorts where we have more Alaska Native and Native American students at OHSU than ever before because of this successful program.”

The California Oregon Medical Partnership to Address Disparities in Rural Education and Health (COMPADRE) program is a collaboration between OHSU, the University of California at Davis, and more than 30 graduate medical education programs across 10 health care systems throughout northern California and Oregon. It was established to address physician shortages in urban, rural, and tribal communities that result in health disparities due to community members’ limited access to adequate healthcare. 

“The intent is to draw applicants from underserved, rural, and tribal communities,” Gorman said. “We provide as much of their training as possible in the [underserved] communities we hope they might eventually land in. Can we have more residencies in the communities we want to serve?”

The legislature also funded OHSU’s $45 million 30-30-30 plan to address healthcare workforce crises and increase education program diversity.

“The goal is to increase graduates of selected programs by 30%, increase student diversity by at least 30%, and to achieve these ends by 2030,” Gorman said.