In recent years, there has been a lot of publicity, and even greater concern, surrounding the worsening shortage of healthcare providers worldwide. In the US alone, it is estimated that the shortfall in the number of primary and specialty care physicians may exceed 120,000 by 2034.
This news, though certainly distressing, is by no means new. What has remained relatively little discussed, however, is the impact the physician shortage will have on jobs in the US healthcare industry overall. This article will examine this issue, outlining both the challenges and the opportunities the labor shortage will have on current and future healthcare workers.
An increasing demand for nurses and nurse practitioners
As the physician shortage worsens nationwide, nurses are increasingly being turned to help fill the patient care gap. This is particularly evident in the growing demand for and independence of nurse practitioners.
Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP), for instance, are trained to provide care across all stages of the lifespan and may, indeed, fill the role of a family doctor for generations of patients. In many states, FNPs enjoy what is known as full practice authority (FPA), meaning that they can prescribe medication, order medical tests, and direct patient care, including overseeing end-of-life care, without requiring a physician’s authorization.
In addition to the growing ranks of nurse practitioners charged with mitigating some of the effects of the physician shortage, medical colleges, and healthcare systems alike are also working to recruit more nurses for both general and specialized practice. This includes recruiting more “nontraditional” candidates to the field, including males.
The increasing role of telehealth
No matter what area of healthcare you may choose to enter, the odds are that telehealth will play an important role in your professional practice. While the advent of COVID-19 led to an increasing acceptance of telemedicine by patients and practitioners alike, the promise of the technology as a tool for addressing the physician shortage is only just beginning to be realized.
Now, more than ever, healthcare providers can use telehealth to provide a range of physical and mental health services, from managing chronic illnesses to diagnosing and treating acute conditions. And that makes patient care more efficient because you’re reducing time both in checking them in and preparing them in the exam room. Instead, patients simply log into the secure portal, press a button, and connect instantly with their care provider.
But the efficiency doesn’t end there because, unlike most traditional clinics, patients have on-demand access to the kinds of healthcare services they need, whether that means a quick video chat to diagnose a skin condition and prescribe treatment or it involves urgent mental health counseling session for a patient in distress.
Because telehealth enables healthcare providers of almost every stripe, from psychologists to nurses to nutritionists, to serve patients whenever and wherever they need it, the pressures of the physician shortage decrease.
In exchange, however, healthcare workers must be prepared to provide high-quality care in the digital space. And that means that established and emerging professionals alike will have to adapt to a new caregiving experience, mastering the technology without compromising the patient/provider relationship, without jeopardizing patients’ medical privacy, and without diminishing the overall quality of patient care.
The physician shortage didn’t just emerge in a vacuum. It began and has evolved, from a perfect storm of risks, including the aging of the medical workforce, the rising tide of physician retirements, and an increasingly sick and elderly general population. And because our population is not only growing older but also living longer, that means that pressure on the healthcare system will only increase.
Because of this, healthcare systems are looking both to expand the workforce and to upskill those already in it. Now, more than ever, hospitals are offering robust in-house training opportunities to increase the ranks of workers in high-demand areas. Similarly, hospitals are partnering with community colleges to offer sweet incentives for new and established healthcare workers.
This can include everything from guaranteed job placement for community college students who choose to major in healthcare to tuition reimbursement for hospital employees who decide to return to school to complete advanced training or pursue new degrees, licensures, or certifications in healthcare.
And that is great news for anyone in the healthcare field because the physician shortage may well mean that you can pursue a great medical education and enjoy tremendous career advancement with very little, if any, student debt!
The ongoing physician shortage is having a significant impact on workers in the healthcare industry. The shortage has not only led to an expanded role for nurses, nurse practitioners, and other health workers, but it has also increased access to educational opportunities and significant career advancement. At the same time, it has also impacted the way that healthcare is delivered, including promoting the turn toward telehealth.
About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity and marketing strategies.