COVID-19 and the Health Workforce 1/26-2/8

1/26-2/8 Updates


Vaccine Administration

The federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health workers is beginning to take effect in 25 states and the District of Columbia as of January 27, 2022.

Concerns over the impact of COVID-19 vaccination mandates on health care worker retention and staffing shortages has led the governor of Montana to request flexibility for hesitant workers in rural hospitals.

The CDC has directed pharmacists to begin allowing 4th COVID-19 shots to certain immunocompromised patients.

Vaccine Administration

(01/27/22) Vaccine Mandate for Health Workers Starts to Take Effect
The federal vaccination mandate for health care workers goes into effect January 27, 2022 for health care workers in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Workers in every other state except for Texas will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by February 14, 2022, with the requirement coming to workers in Texas on February 22, 2022.

(01/27/22) Montana Governor Asks Biden Administration for Flexibility on Vaccination Mandate for Rural Hospitals
The governor of Montana is requesting federal exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate, citing rural facilities in Montana that are already short-staffed and may need to fire workers who refuse to be vaccinated. Currently, health care workers in Montana must receive at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by February 14, 2022, and must be fully vaccinated by March 15, 2022.

(01/26/22) CDC Tells Pharmacies to Give 4th COVID Shots to Immunocompromised Patients
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have directed pharmacists that people with moderate to severe immunosuppression are eligible to receive a 4th COVID-19 vaccination shot. Pharmacists have reportedly turned away people seeking 4th shots prior to this direction, which the federal government hoped to address.

Health Workforce Shortages

States and the federal government are examining wages for temporary health workers more closely as hospitals continue to turn to temporary and traveling staff to address workforce shortages.

The long-term care industry continues to struggle with widespread staffing shortages, with vaccination mandates contributing to more staffing issues.

A unique lawsuit in Wisconsin sought to prevent health care workers from leaving a hospital for a rival organization, as both struggle to maintain adequate staffing.

Health Workforce Shortages

(02/07/22) US, State Politicians Aim to Cap Health Workers’ Pay
As hospitals and nursing homes resort to staffing companies to replace burned-out employees, some state politicians in Pennsylvania are considering capping employee compensation in order to save the health care facilities’ money. In recent weeks, US and state politicians from both parties have questioned the compensation paid to temporary medical professionals hired by staffing companies in letters and legislative proposals. The signatories requested that federal authorities look into whether the high fees violate consumer protection laws.

 (02/04/22) Nurses Can Earn Much More As Traveling Nurses. But the Job Comes at Another Cost
An interview on All Things Considered from NPR features a travel nurse describing the reasons a nurse may want to leave a single hospital and instead travel. Travel nurses can receive hourly rates significantly higher than registered nurses can, and can address localized staffing shortages at least in the short term, albeit at significant cost to hospitals. Workers can also suffer from being far from their families and outside of a stable and consistent work environment.

(02/03/22) Pandemic-fueled Shortages of Home Health Workers Strand Patients Without Necessary Care
This jointly-published article from CNN and Kaiser Health News highlights a crisis in home health care, where as many as 40% of new referrals for patients to receive home health care are rejected due to shortages in staff to provide the needed care.

(01/29/22) A Bizarre Wisconsin Hospital Lawsuit Shows How COVID-19 Changed the Balance of Power for Medical Workers
A unique lawsuit at a hospital in Wisconsin shows the immense change the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on the labor market for health care workers. Widespread worker shortages have been sustained for nearly two years, if not longer in some cases, and lawsuits are being filed to attempt to prevent workers from leaving their positions for higher paying positions elsewhere, with fear of hospital closures due to lack of staff.

(01/28/22) COVID-19’s Impact on Nursing Shortages, The Rise Of Travel Nurses, and Price Gouging
This article published in Health Affairs looks at the rise of use of travel nurses to address during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact this has had on workforce shortages and the price of labor in health care. Travel nursing has significantly higher pay to workers and cost to employers, but helps alleviate existing shortages. State and federal programs seek to monitor and potentially restrict potential price gouging practices.

(01/25/22) With a Vaccine Mandate Looming, Nursing Homes Face More Staffing Problems
As the pandemic continues, inadequate staffing at nursing homes continues to be a major issue. Now a new vaccine mandate may cause nursing homes like Frontier Health and Rehabilitation in St. Charles, Missouri to risk losing funding from Medicaid and Medicare if their staff is not fully vaccinated by March 15. Frontiers staff vaccination rate was just 30% at the start of 2022 which is 50 percent less than the national rate, according to federal data.


Large health care organizations are utilizing FCC grants to increase access to COVID-19-related telehealth services.


(01/18/22) Health Systems Make COVID-19 Telehealth Expansion Plans With FCC Grants
Two large health systems have received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grants to increase access to COVID-19 telehealth services for their patient populations. The 2.2 million grant to Mercy and Tampa General Hospital from the FCC is for patients in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The grant will go towards purchasing telemedicine carts and monitors to help better communicate virtually with caregivers and patients.

Health Workforce Resiliency

Health workforce associations are making efforts to prioritize the mental health of their members.

Health Workforce Resiliency

(02/07/22) As COVID Persists, Healthcare Worker Mental Health Must Be Prioritized
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nurse practitioners and other health care personnel have been under great stress while trying to treat patients. Kapu, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), highlights the significance of having mental health services easily available to healthcare professionals so that they may use them, as well as healthcare workers being proactive in seeking assistance and decompressing from their job.