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New collaborative aims to address healthcare workforce shortage

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education announced its Healthcare Workforce Collaborative, a new partnership with colleges and universities, state agencies, the healthcare industry and the K-12 education system to address Kentucky’s critical healthcare workforce shortage.

The healthcare workforce crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19, has captured headlines in Kentucky and throughout the nation. In December, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order declaring the state’s nursing shortage an emergency.

Speakers at the news conference included CPE President Aaron Thompson, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, Senate President Robert Stivers, CPE Associate Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development Rick W. Smith Sr., Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Paul Czarapata, University of Kentucky Provost Robert DiPaola, University of Louisville Health Chief Operating Officer Ken Marshall, and CPE Workforce and Economic Development Senior Fellow Leslie M. Sizemore. They shared state government, higher education and healthcare industry perspectives on addressing the workforce shortage.

Nationally, there is a shortage of more than 1 million workers in the healthcare and social assistance fields driven by retirements, declining labor force participation, low birth rates and reductions in immigration. In Kentucky, the problem is compounded by a skills gap and the state’s lower than average educational attainment rate.

The inaugural meeting of CPE’s collaborative was held June 21. The group will meet every other month for the next year to establish a long-term plan and rapid response strategies to strengthen the healthcare workforce pipeline.

The collaborative, supported by a $10 million appropriation from the General Assembly, will provide grants to Kentucky’s public universities and community and technical colleges to expand programs that train healthcare providers in high-demand areas and lead to professional certification or licensure. CPE will start reviewing grant applications July 15.

“This collaborative is the first time that healthcare providers and educators are coming together to tackle the workforce shortage in a structured way,” said Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers. “The Legislature is committed to supporting the experts in both the private and public sectors in this important work.”

There are significant challenges that colleges and universities face in addressing gaps in the healthcare talent pipeline, including a shortage of faculty, limited access to clinical sites for students, lack of modern training equipment and supplies, and the need for greater academic and emotional supports for students in these highly competitive programs.

Strategies the collaborative will consider include: 

  • Developing more flexible programming, such as virtual and accelerated options
  • Expanding apprenticeships, internships and other work-based learning opportunities
  • Creating professional development opportunities for faculty to learn new teaching technologies
  • Purchasing simulators and other healthcare training equipment
  • Increasing student advising, tutoring and support services to help retain students in these demanding programs.

The collaborative also aims to engage students early with the help of the K-12 school systems to create a clear pathway to the healthcare professions through mentoring and work-based learning opportunities.

CPE brought Leslie Sizemore on board to lead this initiative as part of the agency’s workforce and economic development division. Sizemore has 30 years of healthcare experience as a frontline provider and an entrepreneur. She is the owner of TheraCare, Inc., which provides physical and occupational therapy services to education and healthcare organizations in Southeastern Kentucky. She also served as the legislative chair for the Kentucky Occupational Therapy Association for the last 10 years.

Healthcare Workforce Collaborative Advisory Group members

  • Paul Czarapata, president, Kentucky Community and Technical College System
  • Bob Jackson, president, Murray State University
  • Tania Basta, College of Health and Human Services dean, Western Kentucky University
  • Daniel Czech, College of Health Sciences dean, Eastern Kentucky University
  • Joy Coles, assistant professor, Kentucky State University School of Nursing
  • Jay Morgan, president, Morehead State University
  • Valerie Hardcastle, vice president for health innovation, Northern Kentucky University
  • Robert DiPaola, provost, University of Kentucky
  • Lori Stewart Gonzalez, interim president, University of Louisville
  • Anthony “Tony” Houston, chief executive officer, Catholic Health Initiatives/St. Joseph Health
  • Garren Colvin, president and chief executive officer, St. Elizabeth Healthcare
  • Hollie Harris Phillips, president and chief executive officer, Appalachian Regional Healthcare
  • Jody Prather, MD/chief strategy and marketing officer, Baptist Health
  • Derrick Ramsey, citizen member
  • Jackie Richardson, chief of staff, CHFS Office of Secretary
  • Aaron Thompson, president, Council on Postsecondary Education
  • Mary Pat Regan, deputy secretary, Education and Labor Cabinet
  • Jason Glass, commissioner, Kentucky Department of Education


  • Leslie Sizemore, senior fellow, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
  • Rick Smith, associate vice president, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

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