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Washington State Dental Association

Statewide Health Employer Survey

The Washington Health Workforce Sentinel Network launched its second survey of healthcare providers on November 1 to add more “ground level” data about emerging healthcare workforce needs throughout Washington state. 

Known as the Sentinel Network, healthcare providers representing a wide range of health care facilities, from large urban hospitals to small, rural home health care facilities, are connected with educators, trainers, and policymakers to respond to health workforce demand changes as they emerge.

The Sentinel Network was created in late 2015 and invited employer input for the first time in the summer of 2016. A joint project of the state’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (Workforce Board) and the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Washington, the Sentinel Network is funded by the Healthier Washington initiative of the Washington State Health Care Authority.

Sue Skillman, Sentinel Network Director from the University of Washington, said “The Sentinel Network gives our state’s healthcare industry a direct line of communication to education, training and policy partners to collectively solve emerging health workforce needs.”

“The first round of data collection created a baseline, and confirms some of what we’re hearing anecdotally about skill needs and occupation changes in our changing healthcare environment,” said Skillman. “By obtaining direct input from the industry Sentinels three times a year, workforce needs are more likely to be identified in time for the Network to collectively figure out solutions.”

Healthcare employers can participate in the Sentinel Network at www.wtb.wa.gov/HealthSentinel.

Initial Sentinel Network results can be viewed at www.wtb.wa.gov/HealthSentinel/results.asp

The baseline data from this summer’s survey pointed to “exceptionally long vacancies” at large hospitals for medical/clinical laboratory technologists, registered nurses, and medical assistants. Behavioral health clinics reported increased demand for mental health counselors, clinical social workers, and substance abuse/behavioral health counselors. Meanwhile, registered nurses, physicians, mental health counselors, and dental assistants were among occupations cited by the community and free clinics as having exceptionally long vacancies. Very few respondents indicated they had decreased demand for any occupations. And among the many reasons added by Sentinels to expand on their responses, training to keep up with electronic records and information technology was cited frequently as a need.

The Sentinel Network is continuing recruitment efforts to expand the number and types of healthcare providers in its statewide network. More than 200 providers representing an even larger number of healthcare facilities are already registered for Round 2 of data collection beginning November 1. 

The Sentinel Network concept was initiated by the Health Workforce Council. The Council brings together healthcare stakeholders who research healthcare shortages and recommend strategies to the Governor and Legislature to help solve them. The Workforce Board staffs the Council and in 2015 was awarded $350,000 from the Healthier Washington State Innovation Model Grant provided through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement the network.

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