COVID-19 and the Health Workforce 2/9-2/23

2/9-2/23 Updates


Vaccine Administration

Some states are seeking leniency on COVID-19 vaccination mandates for health care workers in efforts to prevent staffing shortages; meanwhile, workers are  increasingly seeking religious exemptions to the mandates.

The federal vaccination mandate has begun to take effect in the 24 states in which the initial mandate was delayed as it faced challenges in federal courts.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has awarded funding for community-based organizations in efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and access in 38 states.

Vaccine Administration

(02/21/22) New York Delays Enforcement of Healthcare Worker Booster Mandate
New York will not begin to enforce the vaccine mandate on 2/21 as planned, giving workers more time to apply for exemption in an attempt to avoid potential staffing issues. The state will reassess the situation in 3 month, and then will decide if more steps need to be taken to increase booster rates among health workers in New York.

(02/16/22) In the Face of Vaccine Mandates, Unvaccinated Health Care Workers Turn to Religious Exemptions
Unvaccinated healthcare workers are trying to get religious exemptions as a way to deal with vaccine mandates. CMS’ vaccine mandates have now taken effect in 24 states. Health care workers in these states were required to get their first dose of COVID-19 or an exemption by Feb. 14. Several rural health hospital leaders have claimed that religious exemptions to vaccine mandates have been a way to retain health workers during staff shortages as a result of the pandemic.

(02/14/22) Federal Vaccination Mandate Begins for Healthcare Workers in 24 States
The compliance deadline for the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate now applies to health care workers in the 24 states previously delayed due to a challenge in federal courts. Following a January 13 decision by the US Supreme Court, health care workers in these states must be fully vaccinated by March 15, 2022.

(02/10/22) HHS Releases $66.5M to Boost COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence, Access
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded nearly $66.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds to eight community-based organizations, expanding efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and vaccination access. The funding will support organizations in 38 states to build vaccine confidence through targeted outreach efforts.

Health Workforce Shortages

State governments are making moves to add flexibility to health care facilities and provide support for health workforce shortages.

License backlogs in multiple states are preventing some health care workers from being able to practice.

Staffing shortages are increasing the demand for health care workers willing to travel.

Staffing shortages in rural areas continue to delay and prevent patient care.

Health Workforce Shortages

 (02/22/22) Virginia Gov Youngkin Signs Order Addressing Health Care Staffing Issues
On February 21, 2022, Virginia Governor’s Executive Order 16 went into effect. In order to address staffing shortages, it temporarily suspends various restrictions for hospitals and healthcare facilities. To combat COVID-19, the order would provide more flexibility to hospitals, health systems, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, certified nursing facilities, and other health care providers. Many guidelines are included in the order, such as provisions for telehealth support, recognizing out-of-state health care workers, and increasing hospital bed capacity.

(02/16/22) Michigan to Spend $1.2B to Fight COVID-19, Address Health Care Worker Shortage
Michigan’s governor signed legislation authorizing $1.2 billion in COVID-19 relief efforts. Part of the fund will be spent on health care staffing, COVID-19 testing in schools, and improving laboratory testing procedures. This new law comes amid four local hospitals calling in the National Guard for staffing support.

(02/13/22) ‘A Real Crisis’: License Backlogs in Some States Prevent Health-care Workers From Seeing Patients
Health care workers from New York and Wisconsin are facing license delays, which is preventing them from entering the workforce in certain states and seeing patients. The delays are putting further strain on the health workforce which is facing staff shortages and mental health issues during the prolonged pandemic. These issues are also affecting patients’ ability to get care.

(02/11/22) For Travel Nurses, Jobs at Home Can’t Come Close to Pay They Get on the Road
Travel nurses are finding more lucrative opportunities away from home. Although some hospitals are paying large sums to traveling nurses filling in staffing gaps, many hospitals require RNs to accept full time positions. The wages the hospitals are offering do no come close to the more than $120 an hour a travel nurses can make.

(02/10/22) In Rural America, Patients Are Waiting for Care — Sometimes With Deadly Consequences
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt access to care for many patients, including those seeking care for non-COVID-19-related illness. High patient loads paired with shortages in staff, bedspace, and resources are creating access issues at rural hospitals throughout the United States.

(02/09/22) The Doctor Will See You Now — In the Hallway
Even though cases of COVID-19 are receding in most states, hospitals are still struggling to accommodate all the new COVID-19 patients. In Oregon, the Salem Health Hospital, has been at 100 percent capacity for months with patients doubled up and even tripled up in hospital beds in some cases. The COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages has also led to struggles discharging patients to nursing homes. Most long term care facilities are closed to new admissions.


A new report looks at challenges and opportunities for telebehavioral health services.

Telehealth use has dropped from pandemic highs, but remains well above pre-pandemic levels.


(02/20/22) AMA, Manatt Health Present Solutions for Digital Access to Behavioral Health
In collaboration with Manatt Health, the AMA published a new report outlining the opportunities and challenges of using telehealth and other digital technologies to expedite the adoption of behavioral health integration BHI. This new paper, “Accelerating Behavioral Health Integration Through Telehealth,” identifies key stakeholders, core values of BHI, and finally proposes a conceptual framework for fostering digitally enabled BHI.

(02/14/2022) Telehealth Use Dropped to 8% in 2021
New data shows there was a 13 percent increase in telehealth during the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the numbers have decreased 8 percent in 2021. The analyzed data is from the Epic COSMOs, A HIPAA-defined limited data set of over 120 million patients.

(02/10/22) Outpatient Telehealth Use Soared Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic but Has Since Receded
While use of telehealth in outpatient settings has decreased from an all-time high seen in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, its use remains well above pre-pandemic levels. A new report from KFF and Epic Research offers analysis of this and other changes in telehealth use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Workforce Resiliency

Research offers suggestions for addressing burnout among health care workers.

Some health care workers feel the worst of the pandemic is over while others are frustrated with continued surges.

New research looks at symptoms of depression and anxiety among physicians in the first few months of the pandemic.

Health Workforce Resiliency

(02/11/22) 5 Ways to Restore Depleted Health Care Workers
This article looks at various approaches to deal with burn out in the healthcare industry. Approaches include: make the most of extended teams, be a reliable advocate, lead with kindness, offer access to emotional support resources, and allow time for what matters. This “multi-pronged approach” can help the health care system deal with physical and emotional depletion, reduce burnout, and improve patient care.

(02/10/22) Health Care Workers Increasingly Think We’ve Passed the Worst of the Pandemic
A recent survey from Axios finds that just under half of health care workers believe the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic has already occurred. This writeup from The Morning Consult looks at how the attitudes of health care workers have changed throughout the pandemic, including how they feel about who they work with and where they work.

(02/09/22) A Tranquil Virtual Reality Experience to Reduce Subjective Stress Among COVID-19 Frontline Healthcare Workers
New research published in PLOS ONE studies the impact of a three-minute Tranquil Cinematic virtual reality simulation of a nature scene on health care workers on the frontlines treating COVID-19 patients. The researchers found that participants experienced immediate reductions in subjective stress following viewing the simulation.

(02/08/22) For Burned-out Health Workers, Exhaustion From COVID-19 Surges Mixes With a Sense of Betrayal
This article from STAT covers a recent event on burnout in the health workforce, featuring experts from Moral Injury of Healthcare, American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute, and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Health care workers continue to experience high rates of burnout and need continued support to address staffing shortages, harassment, and protective equipment shortages.

(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.

(02/06/22) Factors Associated With Depression and Anxiety Symptoms Among US Physicians During the First Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic
This new study examines the effect the COVID-19 global pandemic has had on the mental health of health workers. The main purpose of this research article was to examine the protective and risk factors associated with depression and anxiety of physicians practicing in the US during the early part of the pandemic.