Indiana’s COVID-19 Response

Partner: State of Indiana

Time Frame: 2020-2021

Supply, Demand, & Distribution

Policy Research & Tracking

Occupational Regulation Icon

Occupational Regulation

Special Issues Icon

Special Issues

Data Collection and Information Management Icon

Data Collection & Information Management



Indiana’s COVID-19 Reserve Workforce was established by the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) in March of 2020. It is comprised of over 16,000 health professionals and professional healthcare students that answered the Indiana State Health Commissioner’s call to “step up and serve” as a part of the state’s pandemic response. Many health professionals that signed up for the reserve were already working but indicated willingness to take on additional shifts and in new settings. Some college students in health professions programs opted to graduate early and obtain temporary permits authorized by Governor Holcomb in order to serve on the front lines. And perhaps most notable are the 1,213 retired health professionals who signed up to serve on the front lines. 

Unprecedented times require unprecedented solutions. The Bowen Center for Health Workforce Research and Policy assisted IDOH in managing the Reserve Workforce and facilitating requests from organizations with workforce needs. At the end of March of 2020, reservists contact information was sent to Indiana hospitals to support their preparation to respond to the first surge that occurred in early April. Beginning in April and continuing until March of 2021, more than 2,500 reservists were connected to one or more of the 300 requests received from organizations in need of workforce reinforcements. 

Indiana Reservist workforce graph

Reflecting on Indiana’s Response to the Pandemic

Through the trials that a pandemic presents, Indiana was well equipped with useable data to support our frontline health workers. As a state, we saw the willingness of healthcare and layperson volunteers to fill in the gaps that the pandemic left in our workforce.

Using the “Rise up, Respond, and Reinforce” messaging, a total of 15,852 healthcare and 976 healthcare students signed up to the Indiana COVID-19 Reserve. 

Later, during the second peak, a total of 8,257 individuals signed up to the “refresh reserve.” Over half of these reservists were actively practicing healthcare professionals (51.1%), while 14.7% were retired health care professionals. Another 8.8% were healthcare students, and over 20% were non-healthcare students or general volunteers.

 Key Takeaways

There are many things that Indiana did well and also room for improvement.

Considerations for the Future
– Nursing homes care for vulnerable populations and considerations should be made on how to better protect residents and relieve an already taxed long term care health workforce.

– Indiana’s health care workers were willing to serve in response to the pandemic, but a coordinated and timely response is necessary to connect the volunteers to places in need.

– Indiana’s Workforce Data Infrastructure was crucial in the midst of the pandemic. It should be a priority to maintain.