Breaking Down the Healthcare Shortage

Where are Professionals Needed Most?

By Katie McBeth

Healthcare professionals are in high demand.

According to the latest US News poll, healthcare positions are all the rage for the 2017 job market. In fact, healthcare positions made up almost half of the top 100 jobs. This includes everything from nursing to medical assistants. “To rank the best jobs of 2017, U.S. News analyzed data from the BLS, weighing stats on job volume, median salary, stress level and other factors that matter most to workers.”

Yet, despite the fact that nursing and healthcare jobs are in high demand and show promise, the country is still facing a massive nursing shortage. What’s the hold up? And where are these nurses needed most?

Here are a few trends to watch for within the healthcare job market.

Medical Assistants

With the rise in technology, advanced knowledge of medical tech is needed to help fill the gap between understanding and application.

Radiologists and other technicians, for example, have a stable outlook in terms of employment and high beginning salary, and are ranked among some of the fastest growing careers within health care. The largest catch with many of these professions (MRI, radiology, etc) is the cost of equipment. However, as more students train in the technology and more hospitals increase their budget for specialty equipment, more opportunities will arise.

Other areas that might see growth include analytics and statisticians; which was listed as #4 on the US News list. Health informatics specialists fall under this category, as they analyze and create electronic health record (EHR) information. Usage of EHRs are on the rise, as they have become mandatory for many hospitals and clinics, so the job market is and will continue to be promising in this field.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners (NP) made the #2 slot on the list by US News. According to the more detailed report on this position, nurse practitioners specialize by “population,” or specific demographics that fit within their knowledge set. This could include pediatrics, women’s health, or family care.

Of course, as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, those that special in geriatrics are also going to be needed. Chronic illnesses and cancer are plaguing the aging generation, and NPs that specialize in geriatric care will be in high demand for a long time.

Plus, as US News notes, the expected growth rate for NPs is fix times the national average, at 35% growth by 2024, resulting in 44,700 estimated new jobs.

Midwifery and Women’s Health

Women’s health is a constantly precarious subject for patients, but a promising one for healthcare officials. Besides traditional NPs that specialize in women’s health, there is also a promising trajectory of growth for midwives, obstetricians, and gynecologists.

The midwife industry is commonly viewed as antiquated, but has found a new popularity in modern day. One of the biggest attractions for patients to hiring nurse midwife’s is their increased success rate and closeness to the patient. Many midwives work as general care givers to women throughout their life, and aren’t just tied down with pre- and post-natal care. With the additional of autonomy for the nurses (as in they are not tied down to an office or practice), this industry is growing steadily every year. The BLS sees a projected growth of increase by 25% by 2024.

Obstetrician and gynecologist positions are also expected to grow within the next ten years. Unlike midwives, these specialists have the ability to perform surgery; thus, are better equipped for unnatural births or complications due to pregnancy. However, this position doesn’t come without some significant stress. Unlike midwifery, the projected growth is only at 18% by 2024 but the average pay is considerably higher.

Solutions to Meet the Gap in Care

The Atlantic wrote a detailed piece on the growing nursing gap in early 2016. According to their report, the rising need for nurses and healthcare professionals is three-fold: an aging baby boomer population that is also suffering from increased diagnosis with chronic illness, and the retiring nurses from the baby boomer generation. These three conditions have all led to the path our nation is currently on; with a disproportionate gap between need and professionals.

Education could be an easy solution, but as an American Association of Colleges of Nursing report noted: “U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.” Luckily, there is an alternative.

According to the research provided by the Atlantic, nurses tend to stay local. Education is needed to help them advance their careers, but most of the school exist outside of rural areas, which can cause problems. However, online education is becoming increasingly more pragmatic for nurses who want to advance within their field while not leaving their current home. Increasing the amount of online education access, and creating more affordable paths to graduation could help solves some of the nursing shortages moving forward.

The Atlantic also lists some other alternatives: “Other strategies to address the nursing shortage have included public-private partnerships and incentives for nurses to become nurse educators. […] the American Nurses Association is currently lobbying Congress to increase funding for Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act. The provision allots federal grants for nursing schools and organizations to advance their educational programs, promote diversity in the field, repay loans for nursing students who work in facilities with critical shortages, train geriatric nurses, and more.”

Of course, bureaucracy can be a massive stumbling block, but at least current nursing students have a positive future to look forward to within the healthcare field. As long as more career-seekers see the long-term benefits of joining healthcare, then our shortage might not be as bad as predicted. Only time will tell!

Katie McBeth
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About the author:

Katie McBeth is a researcher hailing from Boise, ID. She enjoys reading teen novels, eating mac ‘n cheese, and seeing the world through her camera lens. She spends her free time being the mother of three cats and a dog named Toby. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.