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State Looks to Prepare Tomorrow’s Healthcare Workforce

Weeklong series of events spotlights career opportunities expected in coming decade.

Noreen D'Angelo (left), assistant to state Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd, and Meena Murthy, an endocrinologist at Saint Peter's University Hospital, were among those taking part in event kicking off New Jersey Health Care Industry Week.
Noreen D'Angelo (left), assistant to state Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd, and Meena Murthy, an endocrinologist at Saint Peter's University Hospital, were among those taking part in event kicking off New Jersey Health Care Industry Week.

Healthcare has been a wellspring of jobs in New Jersey for more than 20 years..

If that’s going to continue, the state must connect its college students with jobs of the future, industry leaders said yesterday.

They were speaking at an event launching New Jersey Health Care Industry Week, a series of events designed to encourage these connections. The series is sponsored by state agencies aiming to link up employers, colleges and potential employees.

Noreen D’Angelo, an assistant to state Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd, sketched a broad overview of how healthcare may change in the future.

She said that with expanding health coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and Medicaid expansion, the demand for healthcare services will increase.

“As healthcare changes, so must the skills and knowledge of our healthcare workforce change,” D’Angelo said.

Primary, chronic and preventive care will require more nurses, she noted.

“This demand will strain the capacity of those parts of the healthcare system that are already under pressure,” D’Angelo said.

She cited a state projection that New Jersey will face a shortage of more than 3,000 doctors – including 1,000 primary-care doctors – by 2020. By 2030, the state projects a shortage of 20,000 professional nurses. Technicians, health aides and other healthcare workers also will be needed, she said.

D’Angelo said advanced practice nurses could help fill the physician shortfall “and improve access and quality as primary care providers, at reduced cost.”

The focus of providing healthcare is moving from hospitals to community-based care, D’Angelo said. She also said the state is working to ensure that training programs are based on employer needs. The state also is working to review “licensing and certification processes to eliminate barriers and streamline the system so that qualified candidates can more quickly enter the healthcare workforce.”

The event drew other senior healthcare and employment experts, who emphasized the need for employers and colleges to collaborate in preparing the workforce.

“A lot of what we do is think about how to help people get the skills that they need to be gainfully employed,” said Susan J. Schurman, dean of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations.

Schurman said the state effort has the ability to affect a critical problem in the state – the lack of information available to potential healthcare workers about what jobs are available and what training is necessary and available for those jobs.

Dr. Denise V. Rodgers, interim president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said that the university’s merger with Rutgers and Rowan universities would create new research opportunities and more chances for staff members to work with healthcare experts from a broader range of disciplines.

State Deputy Labor Commissioner Aaron Fichtner noted that the chief organizer of the week of events is the New Jersey Health Care Talent Network, a state-supported effort to coordinate job creation. He noted that that from 1990 to 2012, the healthcare sector added 180,600 jobs in the state, while all other sectors created 79,800, less than half as many.

Saint Peter’s University Hospital of New Brunswick had roughly 25 staffers from different healthcare fields on hand to provide information to students at the event.

Saint Peter’s-based endocrinologist Dr. Meena Murthy credited the network with “trying to bring us together to address these needs,” by promoting healthcare education programs that are affordable and meet employers’ needs.

A full schedule of other events scheduled this week is available on the New Jersey Health Care Talent Network site.

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