Shining a Light into the Past to Illuminate the Future

Author: Yetty Shobo (DHP)
October 11, 2016

With a growing and aging population in Virginia and nationwide, the need for healthcare capacity will grow, also.  Efforts to address the needs will be further complicated by the fact that the healthcare workforce is aging as well[1]. Talk of the perfect storm! Several national healthcare professional bodies are already projecting healthcare workforce shortages in the near future.

Thankfully, the Virginia Longitudinal Data System bears a beacon of hope as an important tool to gain insight into factors affecting today’s, and potentially the future’s, healthcare workforce. VLDS provides an in depth data reference tool on Virginia educated healthcare practitioners that can link their K-12 and post–secondary education as well as social services and employment participation, all while preserving confidentiality. This system of data sharing will allow the Department of Health Professions (DHP), partner agencies, and researchers to better understand potential K-12 and post-secondary factors associated with successfully pursing a healthcare career. Such data-driven results can have a powerful impact on policy development to improve the odds of success for students who are interested in healthcare professions.

The Department of Health Professions Healthcare Workforce Data Center already works to improve the data collection and measurement of Virginia’s healthcare workforce through regular assessment of workforce supply and demand issues among the 80 professions and 350,000 practitioners licensed in Virginia by DHP.  By linking its data with those of other state agencies in VLDS, the agency will be further positioned to conduct and support innovative and state-of-the-art research addressing critical healthcare workforce manpower in the state. For example,VLDS data will inform current efforts at HWDC to develop forecasting models of the state’s future healthcare workforce supply and demand. Although there are several national healthcare workforce forecasting tools, few exist at the state level. Efforts to customize national level forecasting tools to obtain state estimates have yielded dismal results because federal data are often unrepresentative of smaller states and regions within states. Further, most national forecasting tools assume being licensed is equivalent to working. However, VLDS data from HWDC and the Virginia Employment Commission can be compared to help validate participation in the state workforce. Such interweaving of data is critical for the success of any healthcare supply and demand forecasting tool and such models are critical for policy makers to be able to effectively and proactively respond to future shortage (or even surplus).

It is never too late to understand the present to improve the future. Looking back at early and middle life factors and outcomes of healthcare professionals can help inform the future. As it is, at least half or more of some profession groups like registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, pharmacists, and dentists attend both high school and post-secondary institutions in the state. With VLDS data, important research questions can be answered and policies can be implemented to help students with interest in healthcare professions achieve their dreams. Already, the Virginia Department of Health Professions has an important tool that is being used to influence career decision choice of middle and high school students today[2]. We can go a step further and say for the students that have been informed and are interested in a healthcare career, how we can sustain their interest in healthcare professions in the state post-secondary institutions that they attend. Furthermore, for today’s kindergarteners, how can we generate an interest in healthcare professions? We can learn a lot from VLDS that will help us keep Virginia’s children in careers where they are needed and better equip Virginia for tomorrow. I am sure you’ll agree with me on this.






Categories: DHP; Health Professions

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