HCA Houston Healthcare - December 11, 2020

By 2036, the Houston healthcare industry could experience a significant workforce shortage costing the region $18.6 billion in GDP and 111,000 jobs. That is, if an adequate workforce pipeline fails to be developed, per a released report from Center for Houston’s Future (CHF) Houston’s Economic Future: Health Care.

CHF, with the support of HCA Houston Healthcare, spent a year focusing on the story of health and healthcare in the Houston region to develop a comprehensive report that focused on both the economic vitality of the region’s healthcare system and assessed our community’s health.

A first of its kind, the report explores the emerging trends shaping how healthcare will be practiced and delivered in the Houston region. A unique economic forecasting model was developed to analyze how different technology and healthcare-related scenarios could affect the region’s employment growth and gross domestic product (GDP). Compared to the base case, the loss in GDP and jobs could be a possibility by the 200th anniversary of Houston’s founding unless our region’s many hospital systems, stakeholders, and business community collaborate on efforts to support an adequate supply of health care workers.

Addressing workforce challenges in the medical capital of the world

In the next decade, it is projected that the overall demand for nurses, physicians and medical technicians will grow faster than supply, which has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. At HCA Houston, building a stronger workforce has been a priority for many years.

Dr. Mujtaba Ali-Khan, chief medical officer of HCA Houston, says that the local and statewide shortage of primary care physicians and nurses is well documented and must be addressed in a proactive manner.

"At HCA Houston, we are taking a proactive approach to address workforce challenges through a number of ways, including major monetary investments in health care educational resources and in training," Dr. Ali-Khan said. "This includes funding and initiating new programs, facilities and recruiting people to the healthcare field."

Keeping medical doctors in Texas

Our nation could face a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032, due to an increased healthcare demand from a growing and aging population, and an inadequate supply of doctors, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The Texas Department of State Health Services finds that the increasing shortage of primary care physicians in Texas will fall across a range of primary care specialties, including family medicine, general internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and psychiatrists.

The inaugural group of residents were welcomed during a Long White Coat Ceremony in June 2019.

In 2019, HCA Houston partnered with the University of Houston (UH) College of Medicine to create a residency program, which is projected to bring a total of 389 resident positions to Texas by 2025 in several of these specialties. These programs are the first true expansion of Houston-area medical training outside of the Texas Medical Center in decades and supports a common goal between our two organizations to prepare culturally competent physicians who are prepared to provide quality care to the under-served populations of Texas.

Dr. Jose Perez, vice president of graduate medical education for HCA Houston, says that the program will train and keep high-quality physicians where they’re needed most – in Texas. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that 68 percent of all medical residents stay in the communities where they complete their graduate medical education.

Partnering to create a pipeline of physician talent in Texas is a major way that HCA Houston is addressing the shortage challenge, said Dr. Ali-Khan.

“Through our partnership with the UH College of Medicine, we are training new physicians who are dedicated to primary care,” he said. “Our residency and Graduate Medical Education programs are embedded within different facilities where we can train doctors to be able to provide excellent care to the communities they serve.”

Recruiting and investing in nurses

Research conducted by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) indicates that there were 3,613 more open positions for registered nurses than workers available to fill them in 2018. Moreover, TWC's analysis finds that this gap is widening, with the difference between new job openings for registered nurses and workers able to fill those jobs increasing by 1,254 each year.

As COVID-19 has shown us, nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system. They are the frontline heroes who bridge the gap between patient and physician and who are unrelenting in their commitment to care. They are also uniquely positioned to provide insights and feedback that will make the biggest positive impact on patient care. With nearly 7,000 registered nurses, HCA Houston is one of the largest employers of nurses in the greater Houston area with nurses holding positions from bedside caregivers in a variety of healthcare settings to leadership positions throughout the organization.

Our healthcare system is investing in leading-edge technologies, infrastructure and clinical education so our nurses can raise the bar for the nursing profession. Since 2019, we have partnered with the University of Houston to recruit, train and retain the best and brightest in the healthcare field.

According to Chief Executive Officer Troy Villarreal, the partnership is a continuation of HCA Houston's focus on nurses and nursing excellence, which has resulted in a positive impact on clinical outcomes, patient experience, efficiency of care, and nurse engagement.

"We are honored to support and be an integral part of UH's academic trajectory in healthcare," he said. "We look at this as a long-term collaboration to develop the most qualified healthcare professionals possible, while providing access to the best care possible."

Kathryn Tart, professor and founding dean of the UH College of Nursing and Kelli Nations, chief nursing executive at HCA Houston Healthcare, show their Cougar Pride.

As part of HCA Healthcare’s $300 million companywide commitment to workforce development, HCA Houston donated a transformative $3.5 million to UH College of Nursing to benefit faculty, staff and students at the college's future location in Katy and its current home in Sugar Land.

Kelli Nations, chief nursing executive at HCA Houston, said the investment in the UH College of Nursing is a major step toward ensuring Houston maintains its status as a destination for world-class healthcare as it supports the professional development of the next generation of nursing professionals.

Part of this donation funded the HCA Houston Healthcare Simulation Center at the UH College of Nursing in Katy, which provides nursing students with hands-on, real world clinical training and research. The center includes high-tech practice mannequins that feature scripts customized by teaching staff, a 20-bed emergency room and clinic.

While nurses are one of the fastest-growing occupations in the region, the CHF report points out that there is a serious shortage of nursing instructors at the college level—the number of nursing teachers in the region is actually declining as more nursing jobs are created. Recognizing the importance of nurse educators, the majority of the donation funded the HCA Houston Healthcare Nursing Faculty Endowment to support the increased number of adjunct or full-time faculty members at HCA-affiliated facilities.

The donation also benefitted the HCA Houston Healthcare Endowed Professorship in Undergraduate Studies to fund the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Director and to expand BSN instruction and research. In addition, HCA Healthcare's commitment to workforce development initiated a program that pays the tuition for its eligible nurses to pursue advanced degrees at UH College of Nursing.

Another way HCA Houston is supporting and growing our nurses is by creating unique spaces where they can access innovative training experiences that enhance patient safety and advance the practice of nursing.

Scheduled to open early 2021, HCA Houston broke ground this year on the HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement, a state-of-the-art facility in Pearland that will provide ongoing clinical education and training for our nearly 7,000 nurses. The nearly 49,000-square-foot facility will feature high-fidelity hospital simulation labs, connected classrooms and de-briefing rooms. It will help standardize training across the health system's 13 Houston-area hospitals and other care facilities.

"The HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement is a significant part of our strategic nursing plan to support and grow our nurses as the differentiator at our hospitals and other facilities," said Nations. "Bringing the latest teaching technologies under one roof in a new, advanced facility is a major step in preparing our nurses to provide the highest level of care."