Monthly Archives: June 2017

3 Medical Specialties That Need Trained Providers

Nationally, there is a practitioner shortage and healthcare needs are increasing.  Between 2014 and 2024, the need for physicians and surgeons is projected to rise 14%.  The need for physician assistants will grow 30%, and nurse practitioners will increase 31%.  Simultaneously, almost 40% of the American population (i.e. the Baby Boomer generation) is aging and increasing the demand on the current healthcare system.  Political uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act and a future replacement are beginning to drive changes within the industry.

Empty Hospital

Demand for trained medical providers has always been high, and continues to increase.  While specific demands will vary by region, here are some medical specialties that need providers in nearly every community.

Primary Care (including family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics)
Today’s healthcare system increasingly relies on the primary care provider to coordinate a patient’s care.  These providers write referrals to specialty care, and help patients navigate a complex healthcare system.  While the primary care provider role is critically important, communities in every state do not have enough providers.

According to information from the Health Professional Shortage Areas website, over 8,000 more primary care providers are needed to resolve the healthcare shortage areas in states across the country.   Some states have a greater need for primary care providers while other (smaller states) have a diminished need.  Primary care providers routinely take the first place title for the most important and sought after provider type.

Today, the demand for psychiatrists is huge.  Some experts suggest that psychiatry is the second biggest provider need behind primary care.  Other sources state that it’s the third biggest need.  Regardless, the shortage of (and demand for) trained psychiatrists is significant.

Although distressing now, the psychiatrist shortage will become more severe over the next decade. One study quoted in Forbes revealed that 60% of psychiatrists engaged in active patient care are ages 55 or older.  With many of these providers nearing retirement, needs in this field is projected to increase substantially.

Hospitalists are medical doctors who care for patients who are currently hospitalized.  They are aware of the unique aspects of a hospitalized patient’s stay, and are often more available than doctors who have other areas of practice.

With increasing demands on the healthcare system, the need for trained medical providers spans all specialties.  Although each source ranks the most in-demand roles differently, primary care providers, psychiatrists, and hospitalists are routinely needed throughout the system.

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Practitioner Shortages and Demand: a Summary

Today, some communities are already feeling the effects of the national shortage of trained medical providers. For example, in Josephine County, Oregon, there is only 1 doctor per 486 people. While most communities don’t have such dire numbers, many patients have to wait longer or travel further to get medical care. Regionally and nationally, communities and healthcare organizations are partnering together to take steps to ensure local access to care.

These six interesting facts begin to explain the complexities of provider shortages.

  • Fluctuating costs, technological advances, legislative changes, and an aging population all impact today’s healthcare system.Costs are frequently connected to advances in technology, insurance requirements, and legislative changes.As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the needs and demands placed on the healthcare system are systemically increasing.All of these factors have shaped today’s healthcare industry and impact the discussion of provider demands and shortages.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for physicians and surgeons will grow 14% percent between 2014 and 2024.
  • Between 2014 and 2024, the need for physician assistants will increase 30% and the need for nurse practitioners will grow 31%.
  • The United States Department of Health and Human Services tracks the provider shortage areas using the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) database.This database tracks provider shortages in primary care, dental care, and mental health on a scale of 0-26.Lower scores indicate fewer shortages.Higher scores indicate increased shortages.
  • Some counties in Washington rank as high as 25 out of 26 on the HPSA scales.Most communities and states need more trained healthcare providers.
  • Primary care providers are routinely needed in every area of the country. Using HPSA data, the Kaiser Family Foundation identified primary care needs by state. Delaware had the fewest primary care HPSA areas with 9.California had the most with 607 primary care HPSA areas.Washington has 155 primary care HPSA areas.

Healthcare is rapidly changing and growing. Eventually, each community will need to address the issue of practitioner shortages. While there are national trends, each region will have a unique experience based on their individual factors. Understanding the shortages is an important first step to address provider demand and how organizations can recruit trained healthcare providers. Continue reading >