While most healthcare professionals are already aware of a nursing shortage that has been plaguing the industry for years, many fail to realize that the entire field of allied health is being affected. This allied health shortage has put the healthcare industry in a tough situation. While many view physicians, nurses, and surgeons as the catalysts to a successful industry, it’s actually this “hidden workforce” that keeps the national healthcare train moving forward. However, the allied health industry is facing a shortage that could affect the entire country. To be exact, it needs to train about one million more people by the year 2030 to take jobs in the allied health professions, which excludes physicians and nurses. That’s more than 11 states currently have in their total workforces.
With numbers like these, something has to change soon. Below is an overview of the situation, as well as a few ways to fix the shortage.
Dissecting the Allied Health Shortage
An Immediate Need
One of the biggest issues that the healthcare workforce is dealing with is simply the sheer number of patients that will increase over the next few decades. As the population continues to grow at a rapid pace, so will the number of people looking for healthcare. As with the growing numbers, the population is aging as well. The nation’s population continues to age. The population of Americans age 65 and older will grow from 13 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2020 to more than 19 percent in 2030. People over age 65 have nearly three times as many hospital days compared to the general population. For people over 75, the ratio goes up to four times, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Average monthly employment increases in healthcare doubled from 13,000 in 2013 to 26,000 in in 2014, with the biggest numbers coming in the second half of 2014. In 2015, the average monthly employment increase has been 41,000. While this is a good start, it will nowhere near cover the millions of workers that will be needed by 2030. This also doesn’t take into account the thousands of healthcare professionals that will be retiring in the near future. In the nursing profession alone, The AMN Survey of Registered Nurses found that that 62 percent of nurses over age 54 are considering retirement now that the recession is over. And, nearly two-thirds of those say they plan to retire in the next three years.
Fixing the Allied Health Gap
With the allied health shortage underway, it’s time to figure out how to close the gap. With the shortage seeming to grow as every day passes, many colleges are opening more and more allied health career programs. This explosion in allied health jobs makes for busy times at the region’s colleges and universities, almost all of which offer training and education in health care. Community College of Allegheny County, for instance, has 25 allied health programs that range from one-semester phlebotomy concentrations to two-year educations for other jobs.
Another way that health professionals can recruit a new generation of workers is to let them know about the variety of careers they can pursue. While many assume that nurses, physicians, and physical therapists make up the majority of careers, there are actually over a hundred different career paths that you can take within the healthcare industry.
In its survey of clinical managers and human resource leaders, Emerging Roles in Healthcare 2014 by AMN Healthcare found that while a majority of healthcare professionals are aware of new and emerging workforce roles, hospitals and health systems are not adequately planning to staff these new positions. Putting together better staff initiatives to carve out new roles will also attract potential employees.
If you have other ideas about fixing the allied health shortage, comment below!