NEWS | February 6, 2019

UC Davis Health nurse scientist among experts behind new plan to address looming health worker shortages


After nearly two years of study, the California Future Health Workforce Commission recently unveiled bold recommendations to eliminate the projected shortfall of primary care health providers, nearly eliminate a severe psychiatry shortage, and bolster the pipeline of students and health workers to deliver care in underserved communities — all by the year 2030. 

Meeting the Demand for Health is a report on the future of California's health workforce. Meeting the Demand for Health is a report on the future of California's health workforce.

From health professional shortage areas in the San Joaquin Valley to retiring Baby Boomers leaving the health care workforce, millions of Northern Californians will find it difficult to access quality, affordable care. Among the commissioners authoring Meeting the Demand for Health is Heather M. Young, dean emerita of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis.

“The serious and far-reaching work of this commission aims to advance health for all Californians,” Young said.  “While the physician shortage is highlighted, there are other important priorities to achieve the vision for improved health care access and equity. Other members of the health care team, such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and home health workers are essential to meet our growing needs.”

Highlights of what California could achieve if these recommendations are implemented with collaboration and commitment from many partners include:

  • Eliminate the state’s primary care shortage and nearly eliminate the psychiatry shortage by 2030
  • Increase the number of health workers by more than 47,000 people
  • Improve diversity in the health professions, producing approximately 30,000 workers from underrepresented communities
  • Train more than 14,500 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, including more than 3,000 underrepresented minority providers
  • Increase the supply of health professionals who come from and train in rural and other underserved communities
  • Expand health outreach and prevention role of community health workers, promoters and peer providers – workers who have some of the most trusted relationships in a community

UC Davis Health already works in many of the areas identified in the report. An immediate priority calls for recruitment and support for students…from underrepre­sented regions and backgrounds to pursue health careers. Currently, 49 percent of first-year students in the UC Davis School of Medicine and more than 25 percent of students in all School of Nursing graduate-degree programs come from underserved populations. Furthermore, the nursing school prepares nurse practitioners and physician assistants to practice in underserved areas. In the more than 45 years of the UC Davis programs, roughly 70 percent of graduates work in primary care.

Another priority includes expanding and scaling pipeline programs to recruit and prepare students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds for health careers. Prep Médico, offered by the School of Medicine, aims to increase the physicians pipeline. In partnership with Kaiser Permanente since 2016, UC Davis offers dozens of freshmen and sophomores each summer the opportunity to prepare for careers in medicine through a multi-faceted, six-week residential program consisting of science and math intensive sessions, clinical immersion experiences, technical skills development, community immersion opportunities and mentorship from both UC Davis Health and The Permanente Medical Group physicians.

“One of UC Davis Health’s fundamental missions is to bring the best care available to underserved communities, and as an academic medical center, we’re working to lead the way in training the primary care providers that California needs,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health. “Our efforts include broadening primary care offerings by teaching providers to work together in team medicine so each delivers care at their highest level of training, and we’re collaborating with health care partners, businesses and entrepreneurs to expand the amount of excellent rural and urban core primary care with training, telehealth and more.”

The commission was co-chaired by Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, which operates the largest health sciences education and training system in the nation and is a major health provider, and Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of Dignity Health, one of the state’s largest health systems and health employers. The 24 commissioners included prominent health, policy, workforce development and education leaders in the state.