COVID-19 Response and Blogs

As North Carolina (NC) prepares for a rising number of COVID-19 cases, @WorkforceNC is committed to providing data on the availability of needed health professionals. Below are brief summaries of our blogs, information about our NC health professional data visualization site and COVID-19 readings and resources. Please continue to check our website and twitter for additional blogs, including the next one on acute care physicians.

 

Distribution of NC’s Critical Care Physician Workforce

  • Critical care physicians, or intensivists, are board-certified physicians who care for complex and critically ill patients in the ICU, often coordinating a team of nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and pharmacists.
  • Like many more specialized health professionals, critical care physicians are most concentrated in areas with large healthcare systems.
  • In the event of a surge, hospitals can adjust staffing ratios and in hospitals with an “open unit” some hospitalists flex up to cover ICU.
  • Full blog here.

North Carolina’s Respiratory Therapist Workforce: Availability to treat COVID-19

  • NC’s Respiratory Care Board has acted swiftly to surge the state’s respiratory therapist workforce (RT). However, according to a recent survey, RT coordinators and managers at hospitals and health facilities are concerned about the ability of the RT workforce to meet needs and suggested a requirement for at least 765 additional RTs. This is more than the currently available pool of unemployed RTs in the state.
  • NC’s respiratory therapist workforce is concentrated in metropolitan areas and areas with large academic health centers.
  • 35 counties in NC have no ICU beds and/or no RTs. Eight counties have an ICU bed to RT ratio of greater than one, meaning these counties have more ICU beds then RTs —Alamance, Durham, Craven, Moore, Cleveland, Rutherford, Polk, and McDowell. These ratios are based on best available data as of 4/3/20 and will change with increases in the number of ICU beds or RTs.
  • Data suggest that for patients with highly acute illness requiring ventilators, the safe ratio is one RT to four ventilators, and with less acute patients the ratio may increase up to one RT per nine ventilators.
  • Full blog here.

North Carolina’s Supply of Critical Care Nurses are Crucial to the State’s COVID-19 Response

  • NC needs a trained and accessible nursing workforce to care for the high influx of critically ill patients, as well as ICU beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • NC’s critical, acute and emergency care workforce is densely clustered in counties with academic health centers such as Orange, Durham, Buncombe, Mecklenburg and New Hanover.
  • To increase the existing workforce and support the anticipated surge of critically ill COVID-19 patients, places in NC with few ICU nurses may need to encourage and recruit RNs to relocate to these areas or cross-train existing staff to take on critical nursing tasks.
  • Full blog here.

Primary Care Access in North Carolina is Not Equally Distributed

  • Primary care clinicians play a critical role in managing chronic illness and conditions that, without treatment, may require hospitalization or a visit to an emergency room.
  • Many people in rural areas of North Carolina lack adequate access to primary care practitioners (physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives).
  • Disparities in access between rural and metropolitan areas have continued to grow despite an overall increase of physicians in NC, as seen in our previous blog.
  • Seven counties have a particularly low supply of primary care clinicians: Anson, Northampton, Franklin, Warren, Gates, Tyrrell and Camden. Camden has a population of just over 10,000, and no primary care providers.
  • Full blog here.

COVID-19 and infectious disease specialists

  • Infectious disease (ID) physicians play an important role in managing NC’s response to COVID-19. ID physicians diagnose and treat infectious and communicable diseases, consult with other physicians and develop prevention strategies to reduce transmission.
  • In 2018, 211 NC physicians reported that infectious disease was their primary area of practice. Many are associated with academic health centers and may do research or work in public health in addition to seeing patients.
  • Full blog here.

Check out our North Carolina health professionals data viz

Check out our North Carolina health professional supply data visualization here. You can view health professionals–from physicians to respiratory therapists to registered nurses–by county, AHEC region or Medicaid region.Our data viz also provides profession demographics, such as percent over 65. If you have any questions or need further information, email us at nchealthworkforce@unc.edu.

Resources & Reading