FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman, Senate President Robert Stivers, and several post-secondary education leaders formally announced the Kentucky Healthcare Workforce Collaborative on Friday.
This $10 million initiative (a product of the passage of HB 573 last legislative session) will provide direct grants to public colleges and universities that offer medical training programs in what are deemed “high-demand” areas, primarily in nursing and allied health professions. Grant applications will be reviewed starting Friday.
“We have to be thinking about this not just with our current need, and we have a lot of it, but also in our future need,” said Dr. Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
The Kentucky Nurses Association estimates that by 2024 there will be a need for 16,000 additional nurses, on top of a current 12% to 20% shortfall of nursing staff in the state.
“We will continue to prioritize the quality of education, and our accelerated pipeline will not sacrifice the quality of education and will actually increase the quality of training as many of our healthcare professionals will tell you we can,” Thompson said.
Coleman called it a “monumental task,” and that with this new program, colleges and universities will “be able to focus on healthcare pathways that align with the strongest job demand.” She also emphasized that most healthcare workers are women, and that they face even more hardships when pursuing educational and employment opportunities, something this initiative hopes to correct.
The Council on Postsecondary Education are addressing these issues through a two-pronged approach not only in educational development, but also from an economic development perspective, by focusing not only on ease of access to educational programs, but also funding for new and updated equipment, and increased advising, tutoring, professional development, and support services to aid in student retention.
University of Louisville Healthcare COO Ken Marshall cited the over 1,000 job vacancies in their medical system as endemic of the shortage of healthcare workers and said that these shortages are “what keeps me up at night.”