Southwestern University, Houston Methodist Hospital partner to fill health care workforce shortage

By 2036, the Mayo Clinic expects a physician shortage of nearly 140,000 people.

At Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, it didn’t take long for Southwestern student Erica Otto to see just how much she was needed,

"Every patient seems to say, ‘Oh, we need more doctors, we need more nurses, you’re choosing such a great profession,’" said Otto.

She joined a partnership this summer between Southwestern University and Houston Methodist Hospitals.

"The directors in them are actually having us do projects where we’re going around and collecting data from different parts or different units of the hospital," said Otto.

It's part of several new programs, where students rotate through hospital specialties like orthopedics, internal medicine, spiritual care, and even communications.

"Which actually is pretty awesome because I get to see a bunch of different specialties," said Luca Cipleu, a Southwestern University student in the program.

And, of course, it also goes great on a resume.

"Certainly, it’s like an amazing opportunity," said Cipleu.

But it might be just as helpful to the hospital.

By 2032, the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies projects the state will be short 57,000 nurses.

"My feeling is that there was a burnout through the pandemic," said Maria Cuevas, a biology professor at Southwestern.


The Mayo Clinic seconded that.

A survey in a study released last month shows that in 2021, more than 60 percent of physicians experienced burnout.

Compared to data before the pandemic in 2017, there was about a 20 percent increase.

"I think we have a shortage of nurses, a shortage of doctors, so we need individuals that are capable, but also that are caring and that are really motivated in pursuing healthcare," said Cuevas.

The solution to this might just be in the students.

"I really want to be at those frontlines and teaching people what they can do to kind of keep themselves out of the hospital unless they really have to go in," said Otto.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital also happens to have the busiest ER out of all Houston Methodist locations. It also delivers the most babies each year.