UNE President James Herbert testifies at a congressional hearing

On health workforce shortage, where do we go from here? President James Herbert has a plan

This is the President's second Congressional testimony about addressing shortages in the health care workforce

UNE President James D. Herbert, Ph.D., has, for the second time, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security in Washington, D.C., about the health care workforce shortage and methods to improve it.

Herbert, who was introduced by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, spoke during a Congressional hearing titled “Examining Health Care Workforce Shortages: Where Do We Go From Here?” at the request of Subcommittee Chairman U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Herbert first spoke before the HELP subcommittee on the topic in May 2021.

According to the American Hospital Association, the United States will face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2033, including shortages of primary care physicians and specialists, and will need to hire 200,000 nurses per year to meet demand. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges has said the U.S. may lose as many as 55,200 primary care physicians by that time.

To address current and predicted workforce shortages, Herbert proposed six specific strategies:

President Herbert speaks on a Congressional panel
  1. Increase the number of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals we educate by expanding partnerships between universities and community health care settings to develop additional training opportunities, revise out-of-date policies, provide targeted one-time adjustments to expand health care training infrastructure,  and develop strategic scholarship and loan-repayment programs
  2. Intentionally recruit more students who look like the communities we need to serve, as individuals from underrepresented groups are more likely to seek out practitioners who share their identities and background
  3. Use a variety of tools to encourage health care providers to practice in underserved areas, including rural, tribal, and medically underserved urban communities 
  4. Leverage the power of technology, including telehealth and digital medicine, to reach underserved communities and integrate robust telehealth training for all of our health profession students in close partnership with our various training sites
  5. Modify state-level regulations to allow health professionals to practice at the top of their scope
  6. Fundamentally change the prevailing educational model by encouraging accrediting bodies to allow training programs to be more creative and flexible and promoting Interprofessional Education (IPE) training models to break down traditional health care training and practice siloes
Sen. Bernie Sanders points to a board outlining a looming nursing shortage
UNE President James Herbert shakes Sen. Sanders' hand following testimony
UNE President James Herbert in a Congressional chamber during testimony
UNE President James Herbert
President Herbert speaks on a Congressional panel

Herbert stressed that no single strategy outlined in his testimony can solve the health care worker shortage; rather, they must work in concert.

UNE President James Herbert in a Congressional chamber during testimony

“Successfully addressing America’s health care workforce crisis will require not merely acting on each of these individual initiatives in isolation but by seamlessly integrating them,” he said. “Although strategic investment of resources will be required, much of the work we confront reflects cultural changes that will require strong leadership; a willingness to innovate; and coordinated partnership between academia, government, industry, and the nonprofit sector.”

Watch the testimony

UNE President James D. Herbert testifies as the first witness before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions about ways to mitigate the shortage of health professionals, including efforts undertaken by UNE to close the gap.

President Herbert pens op-Ed on ways to address health workforce shortage

Portrait of U N E President Herbert speaking on the quad of the Portland Campus

"The shortage of health care workers in Maine, where I live and work, is a harbinger for the struggles the rest of the country will increasingly confront to hire and retain the individuals who make up the backbone of health care," President Herbert writes in his op-ed in STAT News. "The challenges the state face are ahead of what other parts of the country will face as the nation ages and as urbanization creates pockets of underserved populations in cities as well as in vast remote rural areas."

Read the full op-Ed.

News Coverage of the Hearing