Workforce challenges are multifaceted and represent one of the greatest pressure points in Alaska and national health care.  Following prolonged stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, workforce challenges are especially intense and are anticipated to worsen over time. ​

ASHNHA formed a Workforce Taskforce in August, 2021 to convene healthcare leaders for initial discussions in forming collective efforts to assess current data and explore potential solutions.

CNA Workforce Development

The Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) workforce has faced many challenges during the COVID pandemic, including a decrease in the numbers of CNAs receiving clinical training due to facility restrictions, increased stress and pressure on the CNA workforce, vaccine requirements, and widespread fears related to COVID.  CNAs are a critical part of the workforce providing much of the hands-on care in nursing homes. A severe shortage of CNAs has resulted in the reduction of beds available in nursing homes and the closure of entire units which, in turn, impacts facilities' ability to take new admissions from hospitals and meet the needs of the community.
ASHNHA has contracted with the State of Alaska to support and expand the CNA workforce by focusing on four key areas:
• Expand CNA training opportunities
• Communication and Marketing Campaign to recruit CNAs
• Incentives for CNA retention and recruitment
• Develop a plan for a CNA apprenticeship program

While most of these components are currently in a development phase, ASHNHA is now accepting applications for funding from nursing homes, hospitals, or CNA training programs to support training more CNAs. 

Workforce Taskforce

The ASHNHA Workforce Taskforce, formed in August, 2021, seeks to convene key health care leaders to discuss and identify specific action items for the association that, if advanced, will make meaningful progress in solving pressing workforce challenges. To develop meaningful, achievable action items, the ASHNHA taskforce will operate under a simpler, three-part framework focused on workforce wellness, competency, and availability.


  • Workforce Wellness—addresses workplace violence, burnout in health care workers

  • Workforce Competency—addresses access to well-trained health care workers

  • Workforce Availability—addresses timeliness and supply of health care workers

The first step of the Workforce Taskforce is to collect information, assess that information, and then strategize on specific, measurable action items.  While we are all familiar with the anecdotal problem of workforce, it is necessary to use data and other information to understand and communicate about the (1) existing health care workforce; (2) vacancy rates, demand, and other pressures; and, (3) the availability and effectiveness of workforce supply resources.   

Alaska Sub-Specialty Nursing Consortium

ASHNHA and some of its member hospitals have come together to recruit and train nurses in Alaska for much-needed roles in specialty fields. Launching with our first chosen field, the Alaska Perioperative Nursing Consortium was formed in 2011.  The first student cohort for APNC started their classes in January 2012 and graduated in June 2012.  Many of these graduates are now successfully practicing at their respective hospitals.  Our goal is to broaden our training programs to encompass other sub-specialties with a severe need for trained personnel in our hospitals.  Fully staffed departments with well-trained professionals will ensure excellent patient care for which we strive in Alaska’s hospitals.

The Nurse Specialty Trainings are intended to provide experiential and classroom instruction to nurses who are currently working in these fields.  The Nurse Specialty Training is one component of requirements to gain certification as a peri operative, peri natal, or gerontological nurse. This training is offered three times a year and each training has openings for 10 nurses.  This is a 15-week course with four weeks of in-person didactic followed by 11 weeks of clinical practicum in the home hospital.

Download the STEP Nurse Specialty Training information sheet.