Saturday, 26 November 2022

Bill creates student loan program to increase geriatric workforce

SACRAMENTO — Health professionals and social workers who commit to serving California’s growing elder population could receive help in paying off their student loans under a bill by Assemblywoman Patty Berg that was approved by a key Assembly committee on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 2543 would provide assistance to physicians, registered nurses, social workers, and marriage and family therapists who commit to a minimum of three years of service to geriatric patients and clients. The program would not add pressure to the state’s beleaguered general fund, because it relies on fees paid by practitioners during the licensing process.

“We have a shortage of professionals working in geriatric settings,” said Berg, D-Eureka. “As Baby Boomers move into old age, that shortage will reach crisis proportions unless we start making changes now.”

California only has 890 board-certified geriatricians, which accounts for one geriatrician for every 4,000 Californians over the age of 65. That imbalance is expected to become increasingly worse in coming years. Similar shortages of trained experts exist among nurses, social workers and therapists.

“The goal here is to entice our college students to go into these fields,” Berg said. “A program that covers their incurred educational debt is a big step in the right direction.”

The office of Statewide Health Planning and Development will administer the loan program. The bill was approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on Tuesday. It now goes to Assembly Health Committee.


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