Demand for healthcare workers is currently outweighing supply in the U.S., and there are many factors driving this shortage. On a day-to-day basis, we rely on these professionals to support our mental health and well-being, but they also play a fundamental role in running the healthcare system. Today, the aging population, new healthcare legislation and advancing technologies mean that workers in this field are spread too thinly. Not only do they maintain clinics and hospitals, but we also need them to enact policy changes, manage new technologies and maintain information systems.
Political and policy change
One of the most important drivers of change in the medical industry is politics. In recent years, the Affordable Care Act has transformed the way healthcare is made available in the U.S. To implement the changes and maintain high-quality care, the U.S. healthcare system requires more staff. Along with advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners, there is also a need for managers, analysts and researchers to take on leadership roles.
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The population is aging
Often referred to as the baby boomer generation, people born between 1946 and 1964 are reaching retirement age in droves. As senior citizens, many of them are experiencing age-related conditions that require ongoing care. Moreover, as the life expectancy for a U.S. citizen continues to grow, they will be relying on the healthcare system for longer. As a result, healthcare professionals are needed in a range of roles to keep the system efficient and reliable.
However, this demand is not limited to clinical environments. We also need healthcare professionals to keep insurance systems running smoothly, deliver advice on staying healthy in old age, and manage IT systems.
According to a 2022 study, 275,000 additional nurses will be needed from 2020 to 2030 in the U.S. alone. In part, this demand is being created by older nurses who have devoted much of their lives to the profession reaching or nearing retirement age. As they move into the older age bracket and step aside from their role in healthcare, these veteran nurses will need to be replaced. However, as some will be retiring from nurse educator roles, hospitals and universities will be competing to recruit experienced healthcare workers.
According to a study carried out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s health is becoming more of a factor in the demand for highly trained healthcare workers – especially physicians. Their report noted that six out of every ten Americans are living with one or more chronic diseases. These include cancer, heart disease and diabetes, all of which require a physician for successful treatment and management.
Although this creates a higher demand for physicians, the problem is compounded by a lack of general internal medicine physicians. Despite being in perhaps the most demand of all, there are fewer general physicians because most graduates prefer to select a specialty in medical school.
The provision of healthcare is changing
While we will always need hospitals and clinics to provide essential hands-on care, the way many of us access other types of medical assistance is changing. An increased focus on preventative care means that people are more likely to receive care at home or in a local health center before their problem gets worse.
This is a great way of reducing the overall cost of their treatment and also frees up hospital beds, but it means the U.S. healthcare system is obliged to staff increasing numbers of local centers. From patient advocates to case managers and public healthcare workers, more non-traditional roles are being created, and professionals are needed to fill them.
Expectations are at an all-time high
The American healthcare system is a competitive industry, and it gives everyone the chance to choose their provider. That means individual hospitals, clinics and dental care centers must constantly update their services and technology.
The internet has granted patients access to large amounts of quality information on the best treatment. As a result, people have certain expectations when it comes to the experience they have at medical establishments. From advanced care to the latest equipment and well-trained staff, every aspect of the service is under scrutiny.
Organizations that offer a smooth, professional experience can attract more patients and therefore grow their operations. As each facility strives to perform at its best, more staff are needed to manage and keep them efficient. That means recruiters are seeking everyone from data collectors to administration staff and consultants.
Technology broadens the role of healthcare workers
In recent years, we have seen huge improvements in the way information technology is used in medicine. Primarily, IT (Information Technology) and ICT (Information Communication Technology) have been used to improve outcomes for patients in all areas of the system. This has been achieved using electronic health records, swift sharing of data, and diagnosis aids, all presented with user-friendly interfaces.
Although there is no doubt that this represents considerable progress, it has not led to a reduction in staffing requirements. In fact, the opposite is true. In order to implement any potential advances successfully, healthcare professionals are needed to develop or test solutions and calculate their effectiveness before trials can begin.
Although the U.S. healthcare system has an abundance of sophisticated facilities and a dedicated workforce, there is a constant need for more. Driven by an aging population, more advanced care and greater patient expectations, the recruitment shortage is becoming increasingly severe. Although this is concerning, it does mean that people at the heart of healthcare and those hoping to enter the industry have every chance of landing their dream career.