8 New Reports on Healthcare Job Demand and Shortages

Here are eight recent reports on healthcare job shortages and demand.

1. Demand surges for nurses and physician assistants in New York. A survey by the Healthcare Association of New York State found that more than half of respondents anticipated growth in demand for healthcare professionals, with 57 percent expecting a need for nurse practitioners, 56 percent for physician assistants and 52 percent for registered nurses. Sixty-one percent of respondents indicated that nurse managers were "very difficult" to recruit. Reflecting the increasing demand, 37 percent of respondents indicated that nurse practitioners were "very difficult" to recruit and 40 percent stated that physician assistants were "difficult" to recruit. The reasons cited for the difficulty were shortages, geographic location and noncompetitive salary.

2. Demand for temporary physicians increases despite a drop in patient visits. Hospitals and medical groups are increasingly relying on what the industry calls "locum tenens" physicians, or providers who fill in on a temporary basis. A report from StaffCare, an Irving, Texas-based physician staffing company and subsidiary of AMN Healthcare, says the physician shortage persists despite decreases in medical visits during the down economy. The company, the nation's largest physician staffing firm, said its number of "temporary days filled" for its clients rose to 183,252 from 181,834 in 2010, even in a period when hospitals and health facilities are experiencing reimbursement cuts.

3. Utah faces a "severe" shortage in gastroenterology. The Utah Medical Education Council has identified gastroenterology as one of several specialties appearing to be in severe need in a new report analyzing the supply and distribution of physicians in Utah. In the report — "Utah's Physician Workforce, 2012" — UMEC also identified general surgery, rheumatology, internal medicine and cardiology as other specialties appearing to be in severe need. UMEC's conclusions were based on a 2010 survey of all Utah licensed physicians with a focus on understanding the characteristics and shortfalls of the local workforce.

4. Reforms to New York state program address physician shortage. State healthcare groups say new reforms to the Doctors Across New York program will help address a critical shortage of physicians. The new provisions to the program, which was originally started in 2008 to repay loans for physicians that commit to practicing in underserved areas, streamline the application process and provide a time frame for applications to be reviewed. They also call for the DOH to appoint a work group of industry representatives to develop the new application process by June 1, 2012, while providing technical assistance to applicants to ease the application completion process.

5. One-third of hospitalized patients said nurses "weren't available." A study found that 34 percent of patients hospitalized for at least one night in the past year felt that "nurses weren't available when needed or didn't respond quickly to requests for help." However, according to an NPR report, the findings are indicative not of a nurse shortage across the country, but of a shortage of nursing care within hospitals and other healthcare facilities. There was a nursing job shortage nearly a decade ago, but that is no longer the case, said Linda Aiken, a researcher and professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. The number of RNs graduating has increased dramatically over the past decade, but many can't find jobs, she said.

6. Outpatient clinic employment surges in Iowa. Healthcare job demand in Iowa is shifting increasingly from hospitals to the outpatient setting. In the last year, Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines saw Medicaid payments reduced by $17.5 million, bringing the total payment cuts to $26.5 million over the last four years. Those cuts are rerouting more hospital procedures to the outpatient and clinic level, where employment is growing.

7. Demand grows for physician CEOs. The healthcare industry has seen a surge in demand for physician and nurse executives as new types of healthcare models emerge. Requests for physicians and nurses who are prepared to lead health systems, academic medical centers, community hospitals and managed care organizations have increased markedly. Physicians in particular are beginning to exchange lab coats for a career in the C-suite, the report says, with data indicating that 64 physician CEOs are already leading U.S. health care systems. This new crop of leaders has a strong clinical background and an intimate perspective on patient care and physician behaviors — assets that come in handy when tasked with preparing healthcare organizations to excel in quality and cost accountability. Most importantly, the report said, physician CEOs "bring the voice of actual caregivers to the executive offices and board tables where strategic decisions are made."

8. American Nurses Association president calls for more funding to address RN shortage. American Nurses Association President Karen Daley, PhD, RN informed a congressional committee that there is an urgent need to develop a stronger nursing workforce to fill a projected 1.2 million nursing jobs that will open within the next decade. "Cuts to Title VIII funding would be detrimental to the health care system and could jeopardize patient care," Ms. Daley said. "I am concerned that Title VIII funding levels have not been sufficient to address the growing nursing shortage." Ms. Daley also noted the anticipated influx of Baby Boomers enrolling in Medicare, causing a 50 percent increase in enrollment by 2025. The demand for nursing care will increase significantly as a result, she said.

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