Most eyes, rightfully, continue to be focused on the ever-rising cases of COVID-19 and accompanying increases in COVID-19 mortality and morbidity rates. While the pandemic continues to exact its toll, it has also exposed health care system and staffing problems while potentially exacerbating projected provider shortfalls. Prior to the pandemic, employment in health care occupations was projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029.1 In April of this year, the World Health Organization called for the creation of 6 million new nursing jobs by 2030,2 and the National Academy of Medicine has postponed the release of the Future of Nursing 2020-2030 report to incorporate information about the impact of the global epidemic on the field of nursing.3 In June of this year, the Association of American Medical Colleges projected that the United States will face a shortage of between 54 100 and 139 000 physicians by 2033.4
At the same time, many 2020 graduates of nursing programs, medical schools, physical therapy schools, and many other programs have been waiting to take their licensing examinations. In some parts of the country a limited number of testing sites have re-opened, but their capacity remains limited. As our COVID Spring turned to Summer, examination adjustments were made to reduce the backlog and enable them to practice. For example, in August, the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 2 exam was administered at some medical schools and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing has implemented measures to reduce testing time, including a reduction in the number of test items on each exam.5,6
These are, of course, just the highlights. Going forward, how do we assure that current and future population health care needs can be met by a wide variety of providers who are able to practice safely and competently?
In health care practice and education, we are living in the midst of a great experiment in teaching and learning, especially clinical teaching and learning. And yes, these are challenging times for all of us!