The quickest way to solve the health care shortage is killing student loans

By Paul Blest, Discourse Blog

The U.S. was staring down a shortage of both doctors and nurses prior to COVID-19. Two years and counting into the pandemic, it’s a full-blown crisis.

There are ways that a functioning country could rectify this, but as yet, no one running the federal government has the imagination or desire or ability to seize the opportunity to build something better.

The Biden administration has gone back and forth on both student loan forgiveness and free college tuition, but the pandemic shortage of healthcare staff across the country gives incrementalists the clear opportunity for the kind of targeted reform that they’ve always argued is necessary to produce change. If we want to coax more people into working in healthcare, we should start by making college and medical school free for aspiring nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers, and paying them a bonus when they enter the workforce. In a country where healthcare infrastructure is in the midst of collapse, this is quite literally the least we can do.

A medical student stands with a ball and chain behind them

It’s pretty clear what happens if we don’t. A September poll found that two-thirds of critical care nurses have considered leaving their jobs during the pandemic, and a survey the following month found that 18 percent of healthcare workers have quit their jobs during the pandemic while nearly one-fifth have considered leaving the industry altogether.

“This is the worst nursing shortage that I have witnessed in my career,” Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals president Maureen May told Bloomberg last month.

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