Why is Healthcare Struggling With Staff Shortages?
You’ve surely heard about the ongoing shortage of medical professionals. The problem is escalating at an alarming rate and hospitals are largely understaffed, even with the benefit of expanding medical recruitment companies. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) projects that by 2032, the US will be short some 122,000 in physicians alone. Perhaps the most alarming side-effect of fewer Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, and CRNA’s is a lack of emergency coverage across broad sections of the population. That could mean tens of thousands of preventable deaths. And the problem is not unique to the United States. The World Health Organization projects a shortfall worldwide of about 15 million medical professionals by 2030. Research by The International Centre on Nurse Migration projects an even more dire future with a shortfall of 13 million Nurses in the same time frame. So, why is healthcare struggling with staff shortages? There isn‘t one simple answer to that question but rather, a complex set of limiting factors:
The Census Bureau reported that almost 17% of the US population was 65 or older in 2021. That number will grow by 48% by 2032 as Baby Boomers age. This generation will increasingly need more extensive care – and the younger generations of medical staff may not be able keep up with the demand. In addition, aging medical staff will retire in larger numbers, widening the gap further.
Burnout was already a marked problem in 2019 with over 30% of medical staff reporting symptoms. Those figures skyrocketed with the advent of Covid-19 as medical staff struggled to maintain any kind of balance between life and consistent overwork. The AMA calculated that both doctors and nurses reported symptoms of burnout at a 10% higher rate in 2022 than in 2019. Burnout leads to medical staff leaving the profession or retiring early, widening the gap in supply and demand.
Tufts University reports that the average tab for four years of medical school is almost $223,000. While that can be raised through various student loans, studies found that the pressure of that sort of debt leads to increased rates of burnout and other problems that rob the medical field of practitioners. The largest problem, however, seems to be in finding adequate faculty to train the medical staff of the future. The Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that nursing schools were unable to accept over 80,000 applicants over the course of just one year. While a prominent proposed solution to healthcare staffing shortages centers around better and more extensive recruitment, those measures seem pointless unless education is accessible to those wishing to join the profession.
Proposed solutions to the increasing problem of healthcare staff shortages include adding and integrating telemedicine and more prevalent use of Physician’s Assistants and Nurse Practitioners, both of whom can perform most vital tasks of physicians. Medical recruitment companies have never been more in demand and a good medical recruitment firm can serve as an ace in the hole for hospitals and care facilities facing healthcare staff shortages. Certainly, the crisis at hand and the potential for catastrophic consequences calls for a multi-layered approach and extensive participation of government, military and other resources.