The Association of American Medical Colleges has published data outlining a projected shortfall of physicians ranging from 46,900 to 121,900. Healthcare looks set to need more recruits than any other industry, with the following jobs having the most openings:
- Home health aides
- Medical and lab technologists and technicians
- Nursing assistants
- Nurse practitioners
Population health goals like reducing obesity and smoking mean that more Americans will live longer lives and require more healthcare.
Reasons for the Shortages
The aging American population now requires more care than ever before. The healthcare workforce itself is also aging, which means that a large number of workers will be retiring in the near future, making the gap even wider.
There is also an increase in chronic diseases, with nearly half of all Americans suffering from at least one chronic disease. This means that approximately 133 million Americans require healthcare at present.
The limited capacity of education programs is also a contributing factor to the current crisis. With not enough graduates available to replenish the workforce, hospitals and other medical facilities are turning to alternative methods in order to recruit and retain their staff.
How to Correct the Issue
The issue of staff shortages is a problem for the entire population, as we rely so heavily on the system when we are in need. Job openings in this sector are now at a record high, with 1.2 million healthcare positions vacant this month. This is a 17.9% increase year over year, but only 633,000 jobs were filled. This means that only half the existing jobs are getting the staff they need to fill them.
Medical staffing agencies are paramount to remedying this deficit, as they deploy staff to where they are needed most and address geographic maldistribution. This also has the added benefit of allowing qualified medical professionals to take advantage of travel opportunities as a perk of the job.
Other initiatives involve offering perks and incentives to attract staff. These can include free accommodation and five-figure signing bonuses. As well as this, medical facilities are looking to increase technical and political leadership to support human resource development. Recruiting staff is only half the problem: retaining existing staff is just as important.
One of the areas in need of addressing is the lack of medical staff qualifying from medical education facilities. Significant amounts of funding are needed to support graduate nursing education and reduce the number of students that are currently being turned away from receiving a valuable education.
One positive step towards educating a future workforce is the move to online learning. By harnessing technology, the healthcare industry is fast-tracking the training and upskilling for health workers.
Addressing the gender pay gap may also help to bring in the necessary staff. The majority of the nursing workforce is comprised of women, while the majority of doctors are men. This issue of gender inequality suggests an unfavorable working environment, one that will require investment to correct and a commitment to training the female workforce.