Health workforce


 The Health Workforce is a part of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. HRSA programs train health care professionals and place them where they are needed most. Grants support scholarship and loan repayment programs at colleges and universities to meet critical workforce shortages and promote diversity within the health professions.

Key Facts

HRSA closely tracks trends in the national healthcare workforce, and issues targeted grants to colleges and universities for scholarship, student loan and debt repayment programs designed to stimulate interest in clinical specialties in which shortages are expected. About 8,000 students graduate each year from these HRSA-supported institutions — and one of every three goes to work serving the disadvantaged.

HRSA promotes the recruitment, training and placement of minority candidates in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) to ensure that the workforce is culturally sensitive and linguistically capable to serve patients of every background.

HRSA is the lead federal agency responsible for collecting data, and certifying communities as Health Professional Shortage Areas. The designation takes into consideration such factors as the prevailing rate of poverty and infant mortality; the number of physicians per 1,000 residents; and travel distances to nearest available care. The HPSA designation determines eligibility for numerous federal and state aid programs, including the National Health Service Corps, Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program and Rural Health Clinic Certification.


HRSA’s health professions programs began in June 1967 and were originally part of the Public Health Service. Over the next decade, these programs were transferred to the National Institutes of Health. By 1980 the programs were transferred to one of HRSA’s predecessor agencies, the Health Resources Administration. In May 2014, the Bureau of Health Workforce was created, integrating HRSA workforce programs previously housed in two bureaus: Health Professions and Clinician Recruitment and Service.

Nursing Recruitment and Retention Programs

With a national workforce shortage of 1 million nurses projected by 2025, HRSA supports academic and continuing education projects designed to recruit and retain a strong nursing workforce.

Program funds are used to increase enrollment in nursing programs, expand nursing practice to improve access to primary health care in medically underserved communities, and support efforts to promote the retention of nurses in the workforce.

Advanced Education Nursing Program

HRSA supports projects that enhance advanced nursing education and practice. This program encourages individuals to serve as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse educators, nurse administrators or public health nurses.

Nursing Workforce Diversity Program

To increase nursing education opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, the program provides stipends and scholarships, pre-entry preparation, and retention activities for minority nursing students, pre-nursing students, and students in elementary and secondary schools.

Health Careers Opportunity Program

The program is designed to increase the number of individuals from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are studying and working in the health and allied health professions. This program also provides support needed to compete, enter, and graduate from health or allied health professions’ schools, graduate programs in behavior and mental health, and programs to train physician assistants.

Centers Of Excellence

The Centers of Excellence Program provides grants to health professional schools to support educational programs of excellence for underrepresented minority students. These programs strengthen our national capacity to train minority students in health professions.

Scholarships For Disadvantaged Students

HRSA provides funds to individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to improve their education and graduation rates and improve their ranks in the health professions.

Training Programs

HRSA provides grants to institutions to expand the knowledge base of health professionals and support their continuing education. These funds also support students and faculty in programs designed to increase the number of nurses, pediatricians and primary care providers.

Area Health Education Centers

HRSA supports a network of more than 200 community-based training sites in 47 states and the District of Columbia that provide educational services to students, faculty and practitioners in underserved areas with the aim of increasing the supply of qualified providers in those communities.

Geriatric Education Centers

Through Geriatric Education Centers, HRSA helps educate and train health professional faculty, students and practitioners in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease, disability and other health problems of the aged.

Public Health Training Centers

The Public Health Training Centers Program strengthens the workforce by providing fundamental training in the core competencies of public health.

The Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Payment Program provides federal support for direct and indirect graduate medical education of interns and residents in freestanding children’s teaching hospitals.



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Journal of Health Policy & Management.

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