workers who provide cancer care. These shortages are also spread out across the continuum of care and across geographic boundaries. “We know that where we did discipline-specific recruitment and retention, although we had initial success, that success was not sustainable because this is a multidisciplinary issue and the challenges are universal,” Dr. Lichtveld said. She also suggested, because the impending health care shortages create “a growing challenge not only in the quantity of the people, but also in the quality,” both the numbers and knowledge of health care workers should be strengthened.
Many presenters suggested taking short-term actions to meet the immediate need for cancer care, such as improving efficiency, recruitment, and retention, as well as pursuing longer-term solutions that involve strengthening and filling the workforce pipeline. Speakers, such as Mr. Salsberg, Dr. Lichtveld, and Dr. Benz, noted that both approaches are necessary, as steps taken now to boost the numbers of cancer care workers are not likely to have an impact until years after the nation already experiences problems due to this shortage.
This section of the workshop summary outlines the major solutions suggested by the various speakers to minimize the impact of the oncology workforce shortage on the quality of care. These included solutions focused on (1) new models of care, (2) recruitment and retention, (3) education and training, (4) research support, and (5) policy.
Developing and using new models of care to help meet the demand for cancer care was explored extensively at the workshop. It is expected that cancer centers, especially those with academic affiliations, will play a large role in developing and demonstrating such new models of care, as these centers or their satellites train most cancer health care professionals, pointed out Dr. Benz. In addition, cancer centers are the hubs for research and have the resources to provide the specialized care required by many patients. They also serve many cancer survivors, a growing population that, as noted previously, is increasing the demand for cancer care. It is estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of cancer patients will encounter a cancer center at some point during their trajectory of care, according to Dr. Benz (NCI, 2007).
However, a large number of cancer patients are seen in community private practice settings, so physicians practicing in these settings must also