Dr. K.L. Allen: Sustainable solutions to the health care workforce crisis

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2022

Ohio is hitting new record highs for Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations. The arrival of the omicron variant and the unfortunate continued resistance to vaccination by some is fueling this new surge and our hospitals are once again stretched to the breaking point.

Particularly acute is the impact on our healthcare workers, especially nurses and allied health professionals on the frontlines. Already in short supply, these professionals’ absence is being felt even more as they and their families are hit by the new surge.

Deploying the National Guard and federal healthcare professionals can help provide a short-term fix, but these people already work in health care in their day jobs, so calling them up creates holes elsewhere even as it patches them in other places.

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There is no easy fix to the current health care workforce shortage. The answer in the short term is to get vaccinated and wear masks to help get the pandemic under control and relieve the pressure on our health care facilities. In the long term it’s about training more people for these important and rewarding careers.

WGU Ohio is proud to be a partner in training the next generation of healthcare leaders and frontline caregivers. With a range of online programs in nursing, from RN to master’s degrees, Ohioans seeking an in-demand, well-paid career that makes a real difference in people’s lives should look at these options.

Regardless of where students choose to go, I urge those looking for a challenging career that makes a difference to consider health care, and I urge those already in health care to think about furthering their training. Those with a heart for service can help people and our community in critical ways. You are needed and you will forever know you stepped up at a critical time.

Now more than ever, healthcare workers on the frontlines deserve our thanks, our respect and our courtesy. If you find yourself in a hospital or doctor’s office anytime soon, it’s going to be busier and more hectic than you’d like. Think of how it is for the people who work there every day. Helping you is what they’re there for, however, so they deserve our gratitude and patience.

Though it may seem like we continue to be tossed and turned with little control, there is much that we can do to bring certainty to our worlds right now. We can get vaccinated, we can practice social distancing and good hand hygiene. We can help strengthen our health care workers’ spirits and resolve with kind words of thanks and encouragement, and we can even step up and get the training we need for these important jobs.

We’re going to get through this. There will be a time when we refer to the pandemic in the past tense. We will get there together, however, and with the support and compassion of the health care workers who risk it all on the frontline for us every day. I’m in awe of them and grateful they’re there for us all.

Dr. K.L. Allen is chancellor of WGU Ohio, the state affiliate of online, nonprofit Western Governors University.