If pending legislation were to create new palliative care career opportunities, clinicians would be ready to take them, Dr. Holly Yang, incoming board president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) told Palliative Care News.
Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) have reintroduced the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act (PCHETA), designed to bolster the field’s shrinking workforce with federal support.
If enacted, PCHETA would support hospice and palliative care training programs for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and chaplains. The bill would also expand continuing education and career development programs and incentives in these fields.
Palliative Care News sat down with Yang to talk about the legislation and the impact it could have on an industry in which workforce shortages are the most threatening headwind.
What kind of an impact do you think that PCHETA would have if it were enacted?
I think it would be a huge boost to the education and training of our interprofessional team members.
We’ve been growing our education in our different disciplines over time, through a lot of hard work. But this would be actual, sustained funding, which would be really important and also would really open doorways for a lot of new people coming into the workforce.
Do you have a sense of how long it would take for a new entrant in the field to go through training and get to the bedside?
It depends on the discipline and where they are engaging in the training. So it would really be very discipline-specific.
For instance, in physician training, if there are new fellowship spots funded, they would typically get there in one year. So if we’re talking about earlier training, or we’re talking about career development awards — which is different from training funding, but it helps them advance their careers with junior faculty — that takes more time and is more complicated to measure.
For some of the programs, though, there potentially will be an increase in people being trained fairly quickly.
Granted, there’s always a workforce gap. So it’s not going to fix all of our workforce issues in two years or anything like that, but it would be a huge, really significant boost to the workforce across our specialties, whether it’s social work training or nurse or physician training.
I know this is difficult to predict, but do you think the bill maybe has a chance to make it through this Congress?
I believe it has more than a chance. We’ve been working on PCHETA for some time, it’s a really important effort that we’ve worked on through a lot of collaboration with a coalition of different organizations that understand how important palliative care and hospice are.
Each year, we’re building more awareness, and we’re building more support. I’m really excited to see that it’s a bipartisan bill that is moving forward. But you know, we’ll need to have everyone reach out to their legislators to make sure they understand why it matters for the people in their districts.
Are you seeing more interest in palliative care as a specialty or a profession than you have in the past? If these opportunities arise through PCHETA, will there be people ready to take them?
Absolutely, I can speak as someone who has been involved in physician training for well over a decade. We are seeing people who are interested earlier in their education and careers. We have people coming into medical school who know that they want to do hospice and palliative medicine as a specialty.
I absolutely think that there is a lot of interest, and there’s a lot of growth in this area. So it’s exciting to see the growth. And we need this legislation to help us move it forward.