House of Delegates Tackles Health Care Workforce Shortages
By Alisa Pierce

As Texas continues to face health care workforce shortages, particularly in rural areas, the Texas Medical Association House of Delegates responded to those concerns with new policies aimed at bolstering the ranks of medical students, residents, physicians, and bedside nurses at its annual TexMed conference last week. 

A main solution the house focused on was supporting resources for physician rural education and training opportunities.  

“Seventy-eight percent of newly licensed physicians in the state in the past five years chose to practice in the state’s five large metropolitan areas,” TMA Committee on Physician Distribution and Health Care Access member Steven Whitney, MD, testified before the Reference Committee on Medical Education and Health Care Quality.  Those who chose a rural practice, he noted, were more likely to be “Texas-born and Texas graduates” than their urban counterparts.  

In addition to renewing TMA’s support for growing the state’s graduate medical education programs, maintaining a strong Texas Medical Board capable of processing record-setting applicant numbers, and taking other measures to keep up with Texas’ exploding population growth, the house voted to prepare, recruit, and retain physicians in rural areas by: 

Providing pathways for preparing rural students for medical school, including physician mentorship and shadowing opportunities. 

Increasing opportunities to learn in rural designations both during medical school and residency training. 

Supporting state efforts to establish federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics in medically underserved areas and provide necessary technical assistance through programs such as the state FQHC incubator grant program. 

Supporting efforts that have shown success in recruiting physicians to underserved areas, including physician education loan repayment. 

TMA’s Medical Student Section endorsed other measures the house adopted to support socioeconomic diversity in medical education, further address burnout among learners, and include opportunities for medical students to participate in correctional health. 

Immediate past chair of TMA’s Council on Medical Education, Kevin W. Klein, MD, reminded the reference committee that while these efforts are a good starting point, the hard work of combating physician shortages was far from over. 

“These positive trends are absolutely necessary to continue to build the workforce we need as our state’s population continues to soar,” he said. “Progress is being made, but the job is not done.” 

Delegates also voted to increase health care access by adopting policies in support of the recruitment of nurses for jobs with the most critical shortages, including bedside nurses, those in long-term care facilities, and faculty at nursing educational programs. 

Responding to what Dr. Whitney characterized as a “clear priority to prepare more bedside nurses,” the house also voted in support of adequate funding for the State Professional Nursing Shortage Reduction Program and other state educational loan repayment initiatives to increase the number of nurses trained in the state, as well as efforts to replenish the number of bedside nurses at health facilities after the COVID-19 pandemic reduced their numbers. 

“Every physician knows how important well-qualified nursing staff are to the practice of medicine,” Dr. Klein said.  


Last Updated On

May 25, 2023

Originally Published On

May 25, 2023

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Alisa Pierce

Reporter, Division of Communications and Marketing

(512) 370-1469
Alisa Pierce

Alisa Pierce is a reporter for Texas Medicine. After graduating from Texas State University, she worked in local news, covering state politics, public health, and education. Alongside her news writing, Alisa covered up-and-coming artists in Central Texas and abroad as a music journalist. As a Texas native, she enjoys capturing the landscape on her film camera while hiking her way across the Lonestar State.

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