Q&A with Jean Moore, Director of UAlbany’s Center for Health Workforce Studies

Portrait of Jean Moore wearing a navy top, red and blue flower printed scarf and gold necklace with a small green pendant. Jean has short brown hair and is smiling. The background is blurred and depicts a view of the Albany skyline.
Jean Moore. (Image provided)

By Erin Frick

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 28, 2024) — Jean Moore is a research assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior and serves as the director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) at the School of Public Health. Moore has extensively studied health workforce supply, demand and distribution and more recently investigated pandemic impacts on the health workforce. She has also studied health professions regulation and its impact on access to care.

Established in 1996, the Center for Health Workforce Studies conducts research to support and promote health workforce planning and policymaking at local, state and national levels. It operates two of only nine federally-funded health workforce research centers in the U.S. and is the only Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-sponsored center with a unique focus on the oral health workforce. 

CHWS shares its research findings with policymakers, planners, and health, professional and educational organizations to address issues related to the supply, demand, distribution and utilization of health workers.

Earlier this year, Moore testified at a NYS joint legislative public hearing on health to discuss ways that CHWS research can be used to support New York’s health care workforce. We asked Moore to share insights on this testimony, how it relates to prominent challenges in the health care workforce and ways that CHWS research can help.  

What are some of the challenges facing New York's health care workforce?

Some of the most pressing challenges facing New York's health care providers are pervasive and persistent health workforce shortages. This includes nurses, physicians, behavioral health providers, as well as other essential health care professionals. These shortages have been exacerbated by COVID-19, with lasting impacts that include recruitment difficulties, attrition and turnover, as well as pressure on the educational pipeline. 

One particular challenge is the maldistribution of health providers particularly in underserved communities, which can limit access to care. Another challenge is the need to improve health workforce diversity and equity. Historically, the health workforce has been less diverse than the general population, with notable underrepresentation of certain racial and ethnic groups. Addressing these disparities will require efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce, as well as implementing policies and programs to support career development and advancement for underrepresented groups.

What are CHWS faculty working on currently? 

Our breadth of work at CHWS is comprised of three areas: New York workforce research (funded by numerous grants and contracts), the Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC), and the Health Workforce Technical Assistance Center (HWTAC); the latter two are funded by federal cooperative agreements.

Our New York work consists of recognizing workforce trends, pinpointing shortages and assessing challenges related to recruitment and retention, along with evaluating the healthcare needs of specific communities. We also conduct research on the nursing education pipeline and outcomes of the state’s graduate medical education programs.

Current studies underway at the OHWRC assess various issues affecting the oral health workforce at a national level. These include workforce burnout and resilience programs, changes in the oral health workforce and delivery of oral health services in the safety net, access barriers for pregnant women and those on Medicaid, discrimination experiences in dental education, facilitators and barriers to dental education in tribal areas, and dental public health training and career retention.

One of the primary goals of HWTAC is to promote the benefits of health workforce research to the broader community via webinars, virtual meetings and research alerts, among other efforts.  

How can CHWS research help strengthen the heath care workforce?

Health workforce data and research are critical to better understanding the causes of workforce shortages and to help identify the most effective strategies to address health workforce needs. Better data and information can lead to better outcomes. 

Key priority areas for research conducted by CHWS include access to care, workforce resilience and well-being, health disparities, inter-professional collaboration, training and education, and health care policy and regulation.

CHWS also conducts health care need assessments in the state to better pinpoint workforce shortages and their geographical distribution, enabling policymakers to tailor incentive programs for providers to practice in specific areas and professions effectively.

In New York and globally, the healthcare workforce is overburdened. What tactics could help alleviate this problem? 

Our research shows that health care jobs downstate are rebounding since the pandemic, however, upstate lags behind. An analysis of health workforce employment trends suggests growing demand for workers in a wide array of health professions and occupations over the next 10 years. Given the current recruitment and retention challenges faced by health care providers, shortages are likely to worsen. 

New York has had a long-standing commitment to health workforce development to ensure an adequately sized and well-trained health workforce, particularly for the underserved. Strategies to better inform workforce development decision making include:

  • Monitoring the health professions education pipeline to ensure continued production of needed health workers.
  • Evaluating current workforce development strategies to better understand what’s working, including: pipeline programs, standardized career ladders, programs to support worker resilience, provider partnerships with education, career readiness training.
  • Assessing workforce impacts of care delivery strategies such as telehealth, team-based care and integration of medical, behavioral and oral health services.
  • Studying the impacts of increased regulatory flexibility.

Initiatives that invest in health care education and training and provider incentive programs (e.g., scholarships and loan repayment) — currently being pursued by the NYS Department of Health — hold promise for positive outcomes. These efforts are particularly effective in addressing workforce shortages by attracting providers to specific areas and professions that have the greatest need.

You recently testified at a legislative public hearing on health. How is CHWS working with the state to improve New York’s health care workforce?

I provided testimony to discuss CHWS research and share what we know about the state’s health workforce. Key topics covered included:

  • Trends in the state’s health care employment
  • New York’s physician workforce
  • Registered Nursing (RN) education pipeline
  • Recruitment and retention issues
  • Collecting and analyzing health workforce data, with specifics on nurse practitioners and RNs

The Health Professions Data bill, passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Hochul in 2021, authorizes New York to collect basic workforce information on its licensed health professionals. To date, no resources have been allocated to support the implementation of this program. Data on health workforce supply and distribution can help the state to pinpoint where worker shortages are most extreme and to use this information to better invest their resources for workforce development (e.g., Department of Labor initiatives) and provider incentives (e.g., Doctors Across NY and Nurses Across NY). 

An investment in better data, information and research can further our knowledge about the state’s health workforce as well as longer-term trends to better inform workforce development programs and policies. 

We look forward to the opportunity to partner with the state in ensuring the best allocation of the state’s limited resources while addressing important health workforce challenges.