Over the last few months, we’ve looked at the nursing and overall medical staff shortage – perhaps one of the most complex issues in the U.S. medical community.
And while we’ve looked at why the shortage exists and specific states where staff are in demand, we haven’t (until now) looked closely at the demand itself.
Will there really be more of a demand?
Assuming president Obama’s healthcare reform measures kick-in at the beginning of 2014, there will be an Obamacare-based effect, but not the skyrocket in demand some are predicting:
Because Medicare already covers pretty much everyone 65 and older, most of the estimated 32 million Americans who will become covered under the new healthcare reforms by 2014 are younger people (who typically don’t need anywhere near as many healthcare services as seniors.)
Demand vs action
And remember, coverage will not necessarily translate into care: Many local health experts doubt there will be enough doctors to meet a given area’s needs. With the exception of cosmetic surgeons, there aren’t enough doctors now in most states.
Remember also that demand doesn’t necessarily equal available positions, which must be funded.
Here’s an occupation-by-occupation look at how this demand may play-out:
Experts estimate the total increase in provided healthcare for 2014 will be about 3%, with outpatient services seeing the greatest increase in demand, mostly because younger patients (the ones not already covered) need more ambulatory care than other types on average.
While this need will be reflected in the number of physician positions needed, especially primary care physicians. But even if hospitals decide they can afford to create such positions, there may still be a shortage of doctors willing to fill them:
A study conducted by the Medical Group Management Association discovered that primary care doctors made about $200,000 in yearly salary in 2010, while specialists often made twice that.
Assuming the physician situation doesn’t change, hospitals, clinics and other institutions may rely increasingly on physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other degree-level medical staff to meet the demand.
Physician assistants would also be more in-demand because of the new healthcare laws’ encourages heavier use of non-traditional licensed medical care providers.
It takes years to train doctors, so even if a larger group of students were to be accepted into med school today and decide to work as primary care physicians, they wouldn’t actually be able to enter the workforce until well after 2014.
As a result, current plans for U.S. healthcare reform will have “cascading effects” on several clinical occupations where hospitals will want or have to supplement physicians with nurse practitioners.
Such a demand for “advanced-practice” nurses will trickle down to make the existing overall shortage of RNs even greater.
The increased demand for nurse practitioners to sub in for doctors will, in-turn, fuel a further demand for bedside RNs.
Primary care reform will also likely raise demand for diagnostic technicians – already in short supply along with other allied health professionals – once an extra 32 million Americans all of a sudden have health insurance.
Such shortages will likely be amplified, come 2014, as enrolment in allied health programs haven’t increased significantly in the last few years.
While there is currently a fairly competitive job market for pharmacists, even this occupation is will likely see a bit of an extra demand by 2014.
While there are probably too many pharmacy schools for the number of new pharmacists needed in the U.S., by 2014 there may be just enough pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
Have your say
What do you think the next 12 months will hold for healthcare job prospects?