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New council begins work to reinforce Indiana's health workforce

Indiana State Health Commissioner Doctor Lindsay Weaver speaking into a microphone at a press event.
Lauren Chapman
/
IPB News
The council is made up of representatives from across the health industry, including Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Lindsay Weaver.

One of the recommendations the Governor's Public Health Commission made in 2022 was to create a council focused on Indiana’s health workforce. That group met for the first time this week.

The council is made up of representatives from across the health industry.

Brooke Mullen, the executive director of the council, said it will help identify areas of need and align workforce efforts statewide. It will also develop the state’s health workforce plan.

Mullen said the council has flexibility in how it achieves that. This means if the members feel they’re missing some context or insight, they have the power to bring in more voices and perspectives.

“No single stakeholder is responsible for the clinical or the public health workforce of our state,” Mullen said.

Mullen said members aren’t starting from “square one” when it comes to trying to tackle workforce issues.

The Indiana Department of Health and the Family and Social Services Administration hosted a summit of stakeholders from across the state in April to identify where the health workforce was doing well and where it could improve.

The first meeting focused on the first of two key components identified by summit participants, which was how to connect more age groups to education pathways for health workforce employment.

READ MORE: How the public health system overhaul came to be – and what’s still left to do

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Many members agreed outreach is part of the solution — and should begin as early as middle school.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Lindsay Weaver said starting this early could also expand student understanding of the field beyond nurses and doctors.

“What about laboratory?” Weaver said. “What about therapy? What about ultrasound tech? Whatever that may be, so how are we exposing people to this really broad spectrum of the health workforce?”

Matthew Connell, the vice president of health care at Ivy Tech Community College, said there are critical roles that don’t require an advanced degree that may need a stronger educational pathway to the health workforce, such as how hospitality fits into long-term care.

“It's not a master's level degree, but it's still critical to the infrastructure required to provide the care for all Hoosiers,” Connell said.

Weaver said building a stronger pipeline between education and employment is just one factor. In future meetings, the council will focus on the second key component identified at the summit: recruitment and retention of the state’s health workforce.

The end goal is to develop a state health workforce plan by next summer.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at aruhman@wboi.org.

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Abigail Ruhman covers statewide health issues. Previously, they were a reporter for KBIA, the public radio station in Columbia, Missouri. Ruhman graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.