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Annual Edition 2018
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Bianca Frogner

Message from the Director

Happy New Year! 2018 was a very busy year for UW CHWS and we are excited for what is to come in 2019. We celebrated our Center’s 20th Anniversary through multiple presentations and receptions at regional and national conferences, including AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting in Seattle. Capping nearly 20 years with UW CHWS, Senior Deputy Director Sue Skillman's commitment and leadership to rural health was acknowledged by Washington Rural Health Association’s Leah Layne Memorial Leadership Award. Our future is looking bright. A new $1.8 million grant from HRSA enables us to address important issues related to developing a diverse workforce that is equipped to address health equity. New staff will join our team in 2019. On Twitter and Facebook, you can learn about our latest work, and our website will get a new look in the upcoming year.

New Grant Contributes to Growing Research Portfolio

We are fortunate to have continued research relationships with funders such as Health Resources and Services Administration, Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, Washington Center for Nursing, and Maine Medical Center.

In September 2018, UW CHWS received a new $1.8 million, four-year cooperative agreement grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Director Bianca Frogner (PI) and Dr. Cyndy Snyder (Co-PI) led the successful competition to become one of two new Health Workforce Research Centers (HWRCs) funded by HRSA to address health equity and health workforce diversity. Through this work, we will strengthen relationships with colleagues across the UW Schools of Medicine, Public Health and Nursing. The new HWRC nearly doubles the UW CHWS research portfolio and complements our ongoing research as the current HWRC on allied health, for which Sue Skillman serves as Co-PI. Updates to our website in 2019 will keep you informed about our new projects.

Influencing the Future of Healthcare

UW CHWS investigators continue to inform hot policy topics such as the opioid epidemic, where we are highlighting the roles that providers such as physical therapists play in averting opioid use, and researching the roles of allied health workers in upstream pain management.

An assessment of Washington State’s Behavioral Health Workforce, produced in collaboration with the state’s Workforce Board, includes program and policy recommendations from a wide array of stakeholders. The report is being referenced widely as a starting point for recommendations to the 2019 Washington State Legislature.

UW CHWS investigators continue to be a source of information for policy makers and workforce planners. Director Bianca Frogner and Senior Deputy Director Sue Skillman actively participated in a series of discussions about the Future of Work convened by U.S. Senator Patty Murray. Both have also been called to present to Washington State legislative committees on healthcare and economic development. Dr. Davis Patterson is on the advisory board for a 5-year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Mental Health Services Technology Transfer Center for Region 10 (including Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Oregon) and Sue Skillman is a member of the Advisory Board of the Washington State Center of Excellence for Allied Health. Our investigators also continue to serve on national and international committees, such as for AcademyHealth, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and the International Health Workforce Collaborative.

In the News

Media attention is increasing as we use social media to distribute findings from our work.

Director Bianca Frogner’s collaborative research with The George Washington University (GW) on the use of physical therapists to treat low back pain was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Several local news outlets also highlighted her findings that patients who saw a physical therapist as the first line of treatment for low back pain had a 90% lower probability of being prescribed opioids. She is continuing this line of research with her GW colleagues with funding from the Foundation for Physical Therapy.

UW CHWS recent work on immigrants in healthcare also received recent attention. To examine the long-term outlook for home healthcare as boomers age, the online magazine Politico drew on our 2017 study Immigrants in Healthcare Occupations and quoted Dr. Frogner. Drs. Frogner, Patterson, Snyder, and Dahal are continuing to investigate the complex relationship between immigration status, education, and income among healthcare workers.

2018 Publication and Presentation Highlights

UW CHWS investigators and staff have presented over 30 times around the US as well as internationally and produced nearly 20 publications in 2018. Our studies have appeared in journals such as Health Services Research, Medical Care Research and Review and Journal of Advanced Nursing.

The International Health Workforce Collaborative was held in New Zealand in April, where Director Bianca Frogner, Senior Deputy Director Sue Skillman and Investigator Davis Patterson presented research findings and engaged with other health workforce researchers and policy experts from the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

From our HRSA-funded work on the allied health workforce, we are finding that healthcare workers have unclear career paths, which may threaten the diversity of the future health workforce. A study led by Dr. Cyndy Snyder showed that the current health workforce is diverse, particularly in lower-skilled occupations. Another study she led found limited evidence that workers in low-skilled healthcare occupations followed a career path with any demonstrated upward mobility in title.

Senior Deputy Director Sue Skillman with co-authors Dr. Frogner, Dr. Arati Dahal, and Ms. Holly Andrilla led a study describing the Washington (WA) State Medical Assistant-Certified (MA-C) workforce, which found that over half of MA-Cs planned to seek employment in another healthcare occupation within the next 5 years. The percentage was higher for those who felt overwhelmed or felt they had fewer job promotion opportunities. Hispanic, Black, and Asian MA-Cs in WA state were more likely than White MA-Cs to express interest in other healthcare careers within 5 years.

With funding from the Arcora Foundation, UW CHWS was able to conduct the study Assessing the Impact of Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce on Patient Access to Care, under the direction of Dr. Davis Patterson. This extensive study included a survey of the state’s dentists, family physicians and pediatricians to examine factors affecting their role in providing needed oral healthcare.

A new study of the demographic, practice and education characteristics of Washington State’s registered nurse workforce was completed this Fall, based on a survey of the more than 90,000 RNs in the state. Among other findings, this Washington Center for Nursing-funded study, conducted by Sue Skillman, Ben Stubbs, and Sofia Aragon, estimates that 63% of Washington’s RNs now have baccalaureate degrees or higher.

Washington’s Health Workforce Sentinel Network released a fifth round of findings to its web-based dashboard in October. These findings provide signals of health workforce demand changes being experienced by employers from many different healthcare settings across the state. Information about the Sentinel Network and its findings has been used to inform health workforce planning in Washington, and several states have expressed interest in using the Sentinel Network model. The Sentinel Network is an initiative of Washington’s Health Workforce Council, conducted collaboratively by UW CHWS team, including Sue Skillman, Ben Stubbs, and Amy Clark, and Washington’s Workforce Board.

Our findings were shared with more states when Dr. Davis Patterson and Senior Deputy Director Sue Skillman were invited to present recent health workforce research findings to Legislators and policy leaders from Midwestern and Western states at the Milbank Memorial Fund's Reforming States Group meeting in Portland, OR. Attendee comments like “The discussion on rural health was wonderful” and “I picked up some good ideas that I can use in my state” confirmed that findings from UW CHWS, WWAMI Rural Health Research Center and Rural PREP research were well received at the November event. Affirming the significance of our mission “to elevate the importance of workers in the delivery of healthcare” in policy discussions was a great way to wrap up the year!

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