The federal government supports the use of community colleges to train new health workers. For example, the Employment and Training Administration within the U.S. Department of Labor supports Community-Based Job Training Grants that increase the capacity of community colleges to provide training in high-demand industries. Examples include a $2 million grant to Polk Community College in Florida to address the shortage of cardiovascular technologists and technicians to meet the demand from older patients and a $2.1 million grant to Manchester Community College in Connecticut to produce a larger number of graduates in nursing and allied health (DOL, 2006).

Technology

New technologies will affect how health care is delivered. These technologies may require providers to acquire new skills, such as how to operate new devices or to monitor patients from a distance via telemedicine, and that may change which types of providers are used to perform certain functions (Mullan, 2002). For example, imaging clinicians may need to expand their skill sets by learning how to operate and interpret a number of different imaging modalities, or new sub-specialty jobs may be created for people with expertise in a single specific imaging modality. The technologies most likely to affect the health care workforce in terms of types of workers and the necessary skill sets include

  • technologies that may alter clinical practice, such as new forms of imaging and minimally invasive surgery;

  • technologies that may use the workforce more efficiently, such as remote monitoring;

  • technologies that may improve access to information, such as electronic health records; and

  • technologies that may improve ergonomics, such as assistive devices for patient mobility and transport, and that may help prevent injury to workers (Health Technology Center, 2007).

As new technologies emerge, current workers will have to adapt to their use by acquiring new skills, or new types of workers may appear. While some technologies may impose new responsibilities on the health care workforce, others may relieve workers of their current duties or replace them altogether. One class of technologies that will be of particular importance to the health care workforce in light of current and future shortages are those technologies that will help older adults in the performance of activities of daily living (ADLs) and thus reduce the need for health care workers in this area. These technologies are discussed in more depth in Chapter 6.



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