Beginning in 2005, the Department of Higher Education (DHE), with the support of the Massachusetts Legislature, has been working in partnership with nursing professional associations, industry and other health care stakeholders and with public and private higher education institutions to develop statewide and regional programs to address the shortage of nurses and nursing faculty.
As in other sectors of the workforce, the severe downturn in the economy in recent years has affected the supply of and demand for nurses. Hospitals are treating fewer patients as individuals delay self admission; many nurses who had planned to retire are staying in their jobs; part-time nurses are seeking more hours; and non-working nurses with spouses who have lost jobs are returning to work. Employers, policy makers, educators and the public must understand that these workforce trends are isolated and temporary, and represent a fragile stopgap to the long-term problem. The fundamental causes of the nursing shortage, aging nurse and nursing faculty populations as well as limitations on the capacity to educate new nurses, remain unchanged.
The Nursing and Allied Health Initiative has, to date, placed a priority on strengthening the nursing education pipeline. The Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development: "A Strategic Workforce Plan for the Massachusetts' Healthcare Sector" was released in November 2012 and focused primarily on nursing.
The DHE is very much aware of shortages in several allied health fields and believes that some of the partnership and program models developed for nursing could be adjusted to address prominent allied health shortages. To examine the field of allied health, the Massachusetts Healthcare Chartbook was updated in 2013 and serves to inform workforce development professionals, educators, employers, and jobseekers about the status and recent history of Healthcare careers and the Healthcare and Social Assistance Sector in the Commonwealth. A convening of allied health professionals in April 2104 focused on the increasing demand for direct care workers and was followed by the release of the Allied Health – Direct Care Workforce Plan, A Foundation for our Future in June 2014. Both workforce plans were approved by the Board of Higher Education.
Through partnerships, the Department of Higher Education seeks to increase the number of nursing faculty, improve the capacity in public higher education nursing programs, and meet the future demands for health care personnel.