Wisconsin Joins National Effort to Grow and Retain Health Care Workforce
Multiple states collaborate to address worker shortages
Wisconsin is one of 10 states participating in the National Governors Association (NGA) knowledge exchange network for the Next Generation of the Healthcare Workforce Learning Collaborative program. As part of this group, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Department of Workforce Development (DWD), Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS), and other partners will have access to workforce resources and experts and participate in discussions about best practices to support health care workers. Other states participating in the knowledge exchange network include Alabama, Connecticut, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. Four other states (California, Colorado, Missouri, and Wyoming) will form a separate, related learning collaborative with administrative support from NGA to further develop and share best practices.
“Preparing for the next generation of health care workers is not just a Wisconsin issue, so the opportunity to collaborate on this topic at a national level will help Wisconsin identify and implement the most effective solutions,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “As we face the impacts of retirements and an aging population that will need additional health care support, it’s important that we take advantage of innovative and evidence-based practices to create a workforce that will endure.”
DHS and DWD participated in the learning collaborative kick-off event on April 27 and April 28. The group heard from the federal government, leaders from national health care workforce initiatives, and academic experts who evaluate interventions across the country. Work will continue through the fall and end with a series of recommendations for future changes.
“Across our state, health care and long term care providers, and Wisconsinites who count on them, rely on a strong workforce to help promote and protect the health of everyone in Wisconsin,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “This opportunity allows us to learn from other states facing the same challenges so that we can implement strategies that will strengthen Wisconsin’s health care workforce, with a special focus on our long term care workforce.”
This work aligns with existing health care workforce investments and programs across DHS, DWD, DSPS, and other state agencies to ensure that the state, in partnership with providers, is promoting evidence-based best practices to strengthen the state’s health care workforce, especially in long-term care settings. Governor Evers’ Administration is focused on ways to leverage expertise and workforce infrastructure across state agencies to grow the state’s long-term care workforce and better support patients in need of long-term care services in the community and in facility-based settings.
Existing efforts include:
Expanding, enhancing, and strengthening the direct care workforce: To better recruit, support, and retain these workers, including providers of home and community-based services, DHS is using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to:
- Conduct a staff stability survey. Data will help assess turnover, tenure, wages, benefits, and other factors.
- Expand career opportunities. A statewide professional certification system will be created to improve competency and career advancement for direct care workers. Workers can gain portable skills that apply from one employer to another without retraining.
- Design a statewide workforce platform. This one-stop portal will feature job postings, candidate profiles, credentialing details, training opportunities, a resource library, and more. It will include a function to auto-match employers with job seekers.
Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving: Created to support and strengthen the direct care workforce, increase access to care, and improve the quality of caregiving in Wisconsin. The task force provided recommendations in its report for improving working conditions for people who care for those with disabilities and older adults, leading to a better quality of care for the people they serve. Through ARPA funding, DHS is able to move forward with several recommendations not included in the 2021-2023 state biennial budget, including a caregiver assessment, direct support professional training, nursing home and personal care payment reform, and the development of a home care provider registry pilot.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): WIOA aims to more fully integrate states' workforce development systems to better serve employers and job seekers. Under the leadership of DWD and in partnership with the Wisconsin Technical College System, employers, educators, and workforce development boards, the state has developed a plan that will provide the opportunity for Wisconsin's current and future workforce and businesses to sustain economic viability for individual and family self-sufficiency. Through this work, the state has made investments to support new and existing health care apprenticeships, career pathways, and other worker advancement initiatives.
To learn more about the knowledge exchange network and the Next Generation of the Healthcare Workforce Learning Collaborative program, visit the National Governors Association.
"To keep Wisconsin's economy on a winning streak, DWD is supporting expansion of the skilled health care workforce through registered apprenticeships and other training partnerships," said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. "DWD and its partners now offer health care apprenticeships for pharmacy technicians, medical assistants, and medical lab technicians. In the months ahead, we will be adding to this successful 'earn-while-you-learn' model through new apprenticeships focused on medical billing, medical coding, respiratory therapists, and sterilization technicians."
“To best support our health care workforce, we need to understand our workforce,” said DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim. “That is why we partnered with DHS and other stakeholders to add a survey to physician and dental renewals. The information we gather will give us a more accurate picture of who is working where, and that will help us identify areas of need and tailor solutions that lead to expanded access to health care in all parts of the state.”