Montana confronts healthcare worker shortage

Montana Living/Montana Health Journal healthcare workforce shortage anticipated

16,000 healthcare workers needed by 2028

Montana Living — Montana has a looming health care crisis.

nurse shortage in Montana, Madrona trust, University of Montana health and medicine initiative, Montana Living, Montana Health Journal

According to University of Montana economist Bryce Ward, Montana will need approximately 16,000 new health care workers in the next decade as baby boomers retire from the health care workforce and need more medical care themselves.

Since launching its Health and Medicine initiative in 2016, the University of Montana has been at the center of efforts to solve for this issue. Now, thanks to $1 million in seed funding from the Madrona Hill Foundation, UM will expand its commitment to educate health care practitioners for communities across Montana.  

The gift will provide investments in UM Heath and Medicine (UMHM) over the next five years. Key initiatives include the creation new health care professional training programs and funding to attract and support students in the health professions.

“The Madrona Hill Foundation’s investment will significantly improve health care outcomes for all Montanans,” said Reed Humphrey, dean of UM’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences and director of UMHM. “Everyone deserves access to high-quality care providers, and with this private support, UMHM is taking the lead in ensuring that happens.”

UM Health and Medicine supports improved health outcomes for Montana’s many residents through strategic partnerships and by educating practitioners to serve cities, towns and rural communities across the state. The UM campus currently houses seven clinics, over 20 laboratories and some 55 degree paths in health and medicine studies, from two-year to doctorate programs.

With the Madrona Hill Foundation’s seed funding, UM will facilitate the launch of an innovative occupational therapy training program in collaboration with Montana State University-Billings, which was approved by the Montana University System Board of Regents in May 2017.


A feasibility study funded by Montana’s Office of Public Instruction showed a desperate and growing need for occupational therapists in the state and identified creating a training program at UM as a key way to address the problem. Occupational therapy complements physical and speech therapy in returning individuals to full function and quality of life.

The funding also will create the Burnham Family Population Health Fellowship for doctoral students in public health and the Burnham Family Practice in Montana Scholarship. Population health fellows will focus on evidence-based solutions to reduce the economic and social burden of preventable illness in communities, while the scholarship will support UM students in the health care field who plan to practice in rural and underserved areas of Montana and the region.

“With our gift, we hope to spur positive change in Montana’s health care landscape, and to inspire others to invest in the future of one of UM’s most innovative and productive new programs,” said Cheryl Burnham, president of the Madrona Hill Foundation.

More information about UM Health and Medicine can be found at


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