Building a Stronger Health Care Workforce

Primary care providers are the backbone of our health care system – which means that the stronger our health care workforce, the more likely patients can get the care they need when they need it. For too long, communities across the country have suffered from a shortage of primary care providers.  Without action, experts project a continued shortfall due to an aging population and fewer medical students choosing to go into primary care. But that is all about to change.

Thanks to new investments in our healthcare workforce in the Affordable Care Act, cities and towns across the country will see an increase in the number of health care providers.  A greater number of physicians and nurses creates an opportunity for increased access to care that can help Americans prevent disease and illness, making for healthier families and communities. The new investments will go towards training new doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Between the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act, in the next five years, we’ll begin to see the training and development of more than 16,000 new primary care providers.

We have a unique opportunity to further strengthen our primary care workforce for the future. Among other things, the investments announced will:

Strengthen new nurse-managed clinics to assist in the training of nurse practitioners. This will help provide comprehensive primary care to populations living in underserved communities.

Make health care education more accessible so more physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants will be encouraged to practice primary care.

Support the development of more than 600 new physician assistants, who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physician, and can be trained in a shorter period of time compared to physicians

Train an additional 600 nurse practitioners, including providing incentives for part-time students to become full-time and complete their education sooner.

To learn more about expanding our health care workforce, you can watch our latest webchat where HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and I took your questions. Watch the webchat here.

And to read more about this, check out the fact sheet.

Dr. Mary Wakefield is Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration

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