WILMINGTON — A public-private partnership designed to dig deep on health care workforce data is looking to grow in the new year with new leadership.
[caption id="attachment_235419" align="alignright" width="224"] Tim Gibbs | PHOTO COURTESY OF DELAWARE HEALTH FORCE[/caption]
The Delaware Health Force program has named Tim Gibbs as its director and principal investigator, leading the way in a data-driven approach to uncover gaps in the state’s health care workforce and skills needed. Gibbs had served as the executive director of the Delaware Academy of Medicine since 2008 and has overseen the nonprofit’s growth in the field of public health.Dr. Kate Smith, who has worked with the Delaware Academy of Medicine since 2016, will step into the role of executive director of the organization.“I look forward to Dr. Smith’s leadership and fresh vision for the Academy, and to focus my attention on our health care and public health workforce which was operating under extreme pressure even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gibbs said.The Delaware Health Force was funded in 2022 by $5.25 million, with the lion’s share coming from the American Rescue Plan Act, and promised continued funding for data research from the state Health Care Commission. In total, there are four staff members, with three focused on research.Using the data, the Delaware Health Force will work to bolster workforce development, namely in encouraging students to continue an educational path that follows health sciences. That includes expanding Delaware Mini-Medical School, a lecture series designed to expose people to careers in health care, to middle, junior, high school and undergrad students.“We want students to be trained by locals because that could open the experience up to shadowing that could give a social cohesion to keep people in the state,” Gibbs said. “We're doing that very granular data research specific to the health care workforce to start making projections on our needs. In essence, it’s a bureau of health care provider statistics and it’s what we need to address the issues we face today.”The Delaware Health Force has started collaborating with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services to examine nursing licenses in the state, and starting to look at license holders and how active they are in the field. Gibbs said that the nonprofit has collected five years worth of data to help chart chronic diseases and the ebbs and flows in the workforce.To continue to build a workforce, the Delaware Health Force has partnered with Delaware Health Sciences Alliance and ChristianaCare to expand medical education in various fields in southern Delaware. With residency programs opening to bring physicians to the First State, Gibbs notes there are still other gaps to be filled in specialty medicine fields.“Those areas need fellowships, and that’s what’s missing here. If we lose people to other states for those programs, it’s likely that we lost them for good,” he said. “The residency programs we have now help get people to make roots. But there’s also a need for other fields like pediatric nurse and geriatric nurse practitioners.”Finally, the Delaware Health Force is also taking a key role in a new program that offers interest free loans for Delawareans who commit to practicing medicine in their home state. This program focuses on entry-level or medical technical positions, addressing the gaps in that level of skill set.
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