Bridging Health & Community: How COVID Changed NC’s Health Workforce

Blog | September 21, 2021


In Spring 2020, we started to hear more and more about “essential” and “frontline” workers. At first the terms were mostly used to refer to the nurses, doctors, first responders, and other people providing direct care to those affected by COVID-19. As time wore on, the umbrella widened, to include community health workers, bus drivers, grocery store clerks, teachers, and more people playing a vital role in keeping our society going.


In the latest issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal, authors from sectors as varied as public health, hospice, community health, hospitals, community colleges, business, and more write about the impact of COVID-19 on North Carolina’s workforce. The consensus is that what it means to be an “essential,” “front line,” or “direct” health care worker has changed, and will continue to change. As guest editor Tish Singletary writes in her issue brief, “COVID-19 afforded an opportunity to experience public health as community/population health, and that community/population health belongs to the public, often implemented by unlikely frontline and essential workers.”


Click the links below to read each article. If you share on social media, please tag @NCMedJ.


Introduction from the Editor: Can the Front Line Hold? by Peter Morris


Commentaries & Sidebars:


Bridging Boundaries: Defining Frontline Essential Health Care Workers by Tish Singletary of NCDHHS


The Caregiving Crisis: Significant Changes Needed to Fill the Void of Caregivers in North Carolina Nursing Homes by Adam Sholar of the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association


Hospice Shines During the Pandemic, Revealing Expanded Possibilities by Kristen Yntema of AuthoraCare Collective


Caregivers—Essential, Frontline, Paid, and Unpaid: Exploring the Differences, Similarities, and Needs of This Important Sector of Community Care by Mark Hensley of AARP NC


North Carolina’s Migrant Farmworkers: An Essential Community Less Seen by George Hendrix of AMEXCAN NC


The American Rescue Plan Act: Protecting and Supporting Frontline Workers by Ciara Zachary of the UNC Gillings School of Public Health


The Role of Community Health Weavers in the Micro-geographies by Gary Gunderson, Teresa Cutts, and Jeremy Moseley of Wake Forest Baptist Health


How Our Sister-Circle of Six Black Female Physicians Fought Health Care Inequities to Deliver a Dose of Hope by Michele Benoit-Wilson, an independent OB-GYN at WakeMed Health


Community Health Worker Prevention Services: COVID-19 and Beyond by JéWana Grier-McEachin of Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement


The Peer Workforce in Chronic Care: Lessons and Observations from Peers for Progress by Patrick Y. Tang and Edwin B. Fisher of the UNC Gillings School of Public Health


Substance Use Peer Support: Needed More Than Ever by Jennifer Whitfield of Southlight Healthcare


The Health Care Education-to-Workforce Pipeline: Challenges and Changes After the Pandemic by Lori Byrd of the North Carolina Community College System


Tar Heel Footprints in Health Care: Dr. Sarah Morrow—A Pioneer for Health and Human Services by Richard Rideout, former assistant secretary of NCDHHS



Original Research


A Needs Assessment of Persons With Sickle Cell Disease in a Major Medical Center in North Carolina by Rita V. Masese, Nancy Crego, Christian Douglas, Emily Bonnabeau, Terri DeMartino, and Paula Tanabe of the Duke University School of Nursing; Gary Rains of Duke Clinical Research; and Nirmish Shah of Duke University Medical Center


Lung Cancer Screening Eligibility and Use: A Population Health Perspective of One Community by Tina D. Tailor, Norma E. Farrow, Junheng Gau, Kingshuk R. Choudhury, and Betty C. Tong of Duke University Medical Center