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Wyoming joining 13 states to address critical health care worker shortages

Gov. Mark Gordon (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming will be one of 14 states joining a collaborative project to address a shortage of health care workers, according to a release from Governor Mark Gordon’s office Tuesday.

During the six-month Next Generation of the Healthcare Workforce Learning Collaborative, governors’ offices and other senior state officials across health, education and workforce development agencies “will join forces to develop innovative and evidence-based policies, programs, and practices to strengthen an enduring health care workforce,” the release said.

Gordon’s office and officials from the Wyoming Department of Health, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Wyoming Department of Education, University of Wyoming, and state community colleges will participate.

In March, Gordon said there were 380 vacant nursing positions across the state, and that the health care worker shortage predated the COVID-19 pandemic. Declaring the situation a public health emergency, he signed an executive order temporarily allowing nurses and nursing assistants licensed in other jurisdictions to practice in Wyoming.

“Wyoming is not unique in facing health care workforce shortages, an issue that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Gordon said in the release. “Long-term solutions will require a coordinated effort that will benefit from this collaborative approach.”

The release noted that Governor Gordon’s Health Task Force “has been working to address nursing shortages through the use of traveling nurses early in the pandemic, as well as by using federal CARES and ARPA funding for recruitment and retention efforts.”

The Wyoming Legislature recently approved additional funding for workforce issues in the health and human services area during the recent budget session, the release said.

During a series of virtual and in-person meetings in multiple states, Learning Collaborative participants will evaluate the status quo, share successes and best practices, evaluate data, and develop action plans, the release said. 

The Learning Collaborative will publish findings and recommendations later this year.