Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Human Resources for Health



Inclusive Pages






As implementation of the US Affordable Care Act (ACA) advances, many domestic health systems are considering major changes in how the healthcare workforce is organized. The purpose of this study is to explore the dynamic processes and interactions by which workforce planning and development (WFPD) is evolving in this new environment.


Informed by the theory of loosely coupled systems (LCS), we use a case study design to examine how workforce changes are being managed in Kaiser Permanente and Montefiore Health System. We conducted site visits with in-depth interviews with 8 to 10 stakeholders in each organization.


Both systems demonstrate a concern for the impact of change on their workforce and have made commitments to avoid outsourcing and layoffs. Central workforce planning mechanisms have been replaced with strategies to integrate various stakeholders and units in alignment with strategic growth plans. Features of this new approach include early and continuous engagement of labor in innovation; the development of intermediary sense-making structures to garner resources, facilitate plans, and build consensus; and a whole system perspective, rather than a focus on single professions. We also identify seven principles underlying the WFPD processes in these two cases that can aid in development of a new and more adaptive workforce strategy in healthcare.


Since passage of the ACA, healthcare systems are becoming larger and more complex. Insights from these case studies suggest that while organizational history and structure determined different areas of emphasis, our results indicate that large-scale system transformations in healthcare can be managed in ways that enhance the skills and capacities of the workforce. Our findings merit attention, not just by healthcare administrators and union leaders, but by policymakers and scholars interested in making WFPD policies at a state and national level more responsive.


Reproduced with permission of BioMed Central Ltd. Human Resources for Health

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Peer Reviewed


Open Access




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