The Nursing and Allied Health Initiative was developed in 2005 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. 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. Two workforce plans have been released as a result of this initative. First, in 2012, Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development: A Strategic Workforce Plan for the Massachusetts' Healthcare Sector was released. Second, in 2014, Allied Health – Direct Care Workforce Plan, A Foundation for our Future was released. Both workforce plans were approved by the Board of Higher Education.
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In 2012, the Department of Higher Education, together with health care providers, industry associates and campus partners led the development of a public/private partnership to address both near term nursing workforce needs and tackle systemic curriculum and program capacity challenges. The past accomplishments and proposals for future initiatives are represented in the Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development Plan. This plan presents a roadmap for future action across public and private higher education nursing programs as well as nursing employer partners to transform the existing and future nursing workforce in response to our rapidly changing health care system.
The Board of Higher Education approved the Massachusetts Allied Health Direct Care Workforce Plan in 2014 to create “stackable credentials” for workers in community-based settings. The largely female direct care workforce includes certified nurse assistants, medical assistants, personal care and home health aides, who typically work in low-wage, non-benefitted positions. The plan builds upon the Department of Higher Education’s innovative approach to workforce development, based on the creation of sector-specific workforce plans in collaboration with industry leaders, local employers, and campuses.