Why The Demand For Healthcare Workers Will Continue To Rise Over The Next Decade

According to the most recent employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing job sectors in the American economy.  From 2012-2022, the number of new and vacant healthcare and social assistance jobs is expected to grow by 29%—compared to an average of 11% for all other industries nationwide (including state and local government).  This growth translates into an increase of 5 million health-related jobs during this decade with 22 million jobs projected by 2022.

Of the top 10 healthcare occupations projected to gain the most new jobs from 2012-2022, registered nurses top the chart followed by personal care aides and home health aides.  Nursing assistants, also high up on the list, are expected to see more growth from vacant vs. added positions.

Take a look at the 4 factors driving this upsurge:

The economy is stronger.

As of February 2016, the unemployment rate remains at 4.9%—its lowest level since April 2008, which gives people more income to spend on routine and discretionary healthcare.

More people have access to affordable medical care…

through the Health Insurance Marketplace established under The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The “Baby Boomer” population (people born between 1946 and 1964) is getting older and living longer.

Consider these Census Bureau demographics:

  • Each year more than 3.5 million Boomers turn 55.
  • The number of Americans 65 and older (35 million in 2000) will rise to 54 million by 2020.
  • By 2029, when the last round of boomers reaches retirement age, the number of Americans 65 or older will climb to more than 71 million, up from about 41 million in 2011 for a 73 percent increase.

Advances in medicine and technology and a more health-conscious adult population have a lot to do with increased life expectancy.  Yet, with age come chronic diseases and conditions that call for multi-disciplinary medical treatment in a range of clinical settings.  Regarding trends in where aging patients want to receive medical care, home is the preferred spot followed by ambulatory care settings.  Lower medical costs (vs. hospitals), convenience, and greater comfort are deciding factors.  Labor Statistic data projected for 2012-2022 shows that:

  • Home health services will add the most jobs (nurses and physical therapists) among all other health industry sectors.
  • The ambulatory services sector—encompassing outpatient and short stay surgical centers, physicians’ offices, urgent care centers, imaging centers, dialysis facilities, and endoscopy and cancer clinics—ranks next.
  • Hospitals are actually the slowest growing healthcare job sector. Despite nursing shortages, many hospitals are refraining from adding new employees. Rising operational and labor costs and the federal government’s plan to keep a tight rein on reimbursements is eating into their bottom line.

The country’s nurses are also aging and retiring.

About a million experienced nurses (RNs) are currently older than 50, meaning one-third of the current nursing workforce will reach retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years.  Many have pushed the age envelope and are finally retiring after holding off from leaving during the country’s economic downturn. By 2024, nearly 700,000 nurses are projected to leave the labor force entirely.

Among this retiring group are nurse educators at institutions offering baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs.  Filling the shoes of this highly-experienced group is not an easy task.  Most nurse faculty have a doctoral degree.  Since you can’t easily replace someone with those credentials, the timeline to fill these teaching positions is much longer.  What’s more, these faculty shortages are forcing many nursing schools to turn away qualified applicants in order to maintain a critical student-to-teacher ratio, which further slows the supply to the nursing pipeline.

Looking Ahead

As the number of new and vacant healthcare jobs continues to outpace the supply of available experienced workers, healthcare employers and recruiters must fine-tune their strategies.  To start, it is more fitting to view the national nursing shortage as a problem of distribution since some U.S. healthcare markets have a plentiful supply of nurses while other regions feel the scarcity more acutely.  Offering a good salary, a strong cultural fit, flexible hours and the ability to practice to the full scope of their nursing license would motivate nurses to relocate permanently or “travel” for temporary assignments.  Offering nurses educational opportunities to advance their degree, especially in rural and poorer areas, is also an important incentive.

If you are looking for more healthcare labor force data, BOS Medical Staffing can provide the most relevant and timely information in the healthcare industry.  Since 2008, BOS Medical Staffing has brought talented nurses, therapists and medical administrators together with top facilities.  Contact BOS Medical today to talk about customized staffing solutions.

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