I saw my fellow health workers suffering from overwork, fatigue, burnout, and psychological stress.
1540 (49%) of 3143 US counties do not have a single obstetrician, forcing women to travel for hours to receive care for their pregnancies and other reproductive health needs.
Africa has 24% of the global burden of disease, but only 3% of the global supply of health workers.
We are told that there is no money to expand existing health professional schools or to establish new ones, but there are enough health workers who have lived the COVID-19 experience to lead the efforts to train more health workers. My home state of Virginia has an estimated 388 000 active health workers, one for every 22 Virginia residents. If each health-care worker in Virginia gave $100 a year for the training of new health workers, we would have almost $39 million a year in the state to invest in training more health workers. If each of the 22 000 physicians in Virginia gave an extra $1000, we would have an additional $22 million per year to invest in training new health workers.
Do these schools feel that they need a stronger curriculum before they can expand? Introduce them to NextGenU.org and other organisations that are working to put free, high-quality curricula online for health professional schools. Encourage your health facility to pay for the education of students in exchange for them working for the facility for a few years. The money saved in recruitment fees and onboarding would more than make up for the money spent on scholarships.
We can also reduce the cost of expanding existing health professional schools and of establishing new ones by creating public goods that all schools can use. Currently, any group wanting to start a health sciences school must spend hundreds of thousands of US dollars creating business plans and designing plans from scratch. But imagine if these tools were already available to them, shared by recently opened and expanded schools. Nursing schools currently struggle to find nurses equipped with a masters to teach, but imagine if there were a list of all qualified nurses interested in teaching remotely or permanently, or in travel-teaching. These public goods would be freely available to all schools, and would reduce their operational costs and speed their implementation.
Additionally, reach out to your state and local legislators. Health workers are the largest occupational group in most US states and the fastest growing occupational group in most countries. We have the capacity to fix the problem ourselves. We live in every political jurisdiction. Although elected officials have been able to ignore the expert reports and individual requests, they will not be able to ignore thousands of health workers reaching out to them, requesting that they increase funding to train more health workers. Together we can solve the shortage and maldistribution of health workers and train the next generation of them.
We all know that there will be another pandemic and we must have a larger, stronger team.
KT is an employee of Corvus Health, a social enterprise with the goal of ensuring that all people have access to qualified, motivated health workers. All views are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Corvus Health.
Doctors are calling it quits under stress of the pandemic.
Insourced: how importing jobs impacts the healthcare crisis here and abroad.
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Labor pains: the OB-GYN shortage.
Diagnosing Africa’s medical brain drain.
So many medical students, so few clerkship sites.
Published: January 19, 2021
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