There is a shortage and maldistribution of clinical workforce. Over 90 percent of counties in the Carolinas have at least one partial designation as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). Additionally, the stress and demands of the profession, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, are contributing to the losses. A recent national survey revealed that one in five frontline workers left the field citing burnout as a contributing factor.
The current workforce does not adequately represent the diversity of the population served. In many of the higher income professions, the percentage of Black clinicians is half their representation in the general U.S. population. The representation of Hispanic clinicians is one third, and the lack of diversity in health professions training programs perpetuates the problem. The diversity of the health workforce carries implications for access, quality, health equity, and job opportunities in low-income communities.
There are dramatic health inequities associated with unmet social needs and an increasing recognition that an individual’s ZIP code can affect infant mortality and life expectancy. Our historical focus on developing clinical care capacity fails to recognize that a person’s behavior and social determinants of health significantly impact overall health. Our current workforce needs clinicians who can understand an individual’s social needs and connect them to resources.