States Collaborate to Combat Health Worker Shortage

14 states join National Governors Association (NGA) program focused on strategies to grow and retain the next generation of the health care workforce.

WASHINGTON – California, Colorado, Missouri and Wyoming are among 14 states participating in the Next Generation of the Healthcare Workforce Learning Collaborative, a new effort launched by NGA’s Center for Best Practices.

During the six-month project, Governors’ offices and other senior state officials across health, education and workforce development agencies will join forces to develop innovative and evidence-based policies, programs, and practices to strengthen an enduring health care workforce.  An additional 10 states – Alabama, Connecticut, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia – are members of a broader Next Gen Knowledge Exchange Network, which will have access to Learning Collaborative resources and discussions.

“Every state is facing health workforce challenges, and the pandemic has revealed how quickly the challenge can become a crisis when the system is strained – especially for rural communities,” said Timothy Blute, director of the NGA Center. “Governors are leading on this critical issue, and we look forward to working with states to develop and share creative solutions.”

Capt. Sheila Pradia-Williams, senior advisor and director of Strategy, Programs and Partnerships for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Bureau of Health Workforce, spoke at the Learning Collaborative kick-off event April 27, providing an overview of the bureau’s efforts to grow, diversify and sustain the health care workforce.

“HRSA’s workforce programs help communities recruit and retain quality primary care clinicians, nurses, mental health and substance use providers, community health workers, and other critical health care providers committed to providing care where they’re needed most,” said Pradia-Williams. “Since we know that those who train in rural and medically underserved settings are more likely to practice in those settings, HRSA continues to work across its programs to expand community-based training.”

Nearly 20% of the health care workforce have left positions since the beginning of the pandemic, with an additional 20% contemplating leaving positions as of February 2020.

Governors are advancing multiple strategies to address the compounding effects of these losses, diminished morale among health care workers, and looming generational retirements. This includes creating new career pathways and training programs for key occupations such as certified nursing assistants, raising wages for direct care workers, and establishing workgroups to devise comprehensive, statewide strategies for addressing current and future career flight.

During a series of virtual and in-person convenings in multiple states, Learning Collaborative participants will work together to assess their current operating environment; share successes and best practices; learn from national, state, and local experts; exchange ideas with other states; and develop and execute an action plan to achieve program and policy change based on state-identified goals.

The Learning Collaborative will publish findings and recommendations later this year. The NGA is grateful to the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for their generous support for this project.

For additional information about this learning collaborative, please reach out to Amanda Winters (