Arizona’s Healthcare Horizon: Innovating Against the Odds to Resolve the Worker Shortage

by Linda Qian and Crystal Blackwell

From left: Dr. Oaklee Rogers, Dr. Judith Karshmer, Dr. Maria Delph, and Dr. Betty Parisek. Photos courtesy of Chandler Chamber of Commerce

The healthcare sector’s chronic staffing challenges have hit Arizona hard, with projections showing the state could face the nation’s most severe nurse shortage by 2025. This crisis stems from an aging workforce, a competitive job market offering candidates multiple opportunities, and the demanding nature of healthcare schedules that require 24/7 availability.

This shortage threatens not only the quality and availability of healthcare services but also the overall well-being of Arizona’s residents. In response, higher education institutions across the state are proactively developing innovative strategies to mitigate this issue and ensure a steady flow of qualified healthcare workers.

At a recent Chandler Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce event, five Arizona healthcare leaders — Viveca Hill, division director of talent acquisition for Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center; Dr. Judith Karshmer, dean and professor at Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing Health and Innovation; Dr. Maria Delph, associate dean of professional studies and baccalaureate programs for the College of Nursing & Health Care Professions at Grand Canyon University, Dr. Oaklee Rogers, associate dean for the College of Health and Human Services at Northern Arizona University; and Dr. Betty Parisek, program director for the bachelors of science in nursing and integrative health at the University of Arizona College of Nursing — highlighted their efforts to address the workforce shortfall.

A pivotal strategy has been making education more accessible via hybrid schedules that cater to students’ varied needs, including those of working professionals or individuals with caregiving responsibilities. By blending online and in-person classes, these institutions enable more people to pursue healthcare careers without sacrificing their current jobs or personal commitments.

Moreover, educational institutions are incorporating technology, like simulation technology, into their training programs. This approach provides students with hands-on experience in a controlled setting, boosting their confidence and skill sets for real-world application.

Additionally, recognizing the importance of practical experience, Arizona’s colleges and universities are strengthening partnerships with hospitals and healthcare facilities. These collaborations ensure students have sufficient clinical rotation opportunities, which are crucial for their development.

These efforts by Arizona’s higher education sector signal a broader move toward collaboration between the business and education sectors to address the healthcare worker shortage. It underscores the need not just for more graduates, but for a more adaptable, resilient and responsive education system that meets the evolving needs of the healthcare industry and its communities. By working together, educational institutions and businesses can ensure comprehensive healthcare access in Arizona, marking a significant step in overcoming the state’s workforce challenges.

Linda Qian and Crystal Blackwell are co-chairs of the Chandler Chamber education & workforce committee.

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