COVID-19 Pandemic Exacerbates Healthcare Talent Supply and Demand

Cross Country Healthcare
June 28, 2021 09:14 AM (GMT-05:00)

Shortages of healthcare workers have been a long-standing challenge, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue leaving many healthcare facilities short-staffed despite the number of U.S. COVID cases declining.

Healthcare providers have been stretched, stressed, and burned out as nurse-to-patient ratios widened beyond recommended levels, causing many to reconsider their future in the profession, retiring early and departing from it altogether. According to a recent report by McKinsey, 22% of nurses indicated they may leave their current position providing direct patient care within the next year.

At a time when nurses and other critical providers are most in need, a significant strain in the workforce exists due to the pandemic. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations will need to focus on immediate and long-term planning to prevent clinical staffing shortages from compromising surge capacity and patient care delivery.

Long-Term Planning: The Future Supply of Healthcare Talent.

Even before the pandemic rapidly escalated, demand for health care workers and health care job openings were at record highs. More than 1.2 million jobs were open in December 2018, a 17.9% increase over 2017. Despite adding 391,000 jobs from March 2018 to May 2019, the shortages continued.

Now, given the added strain brought on by the pandemic, the future supply of key healthcare providers is not going to keep up with demand.

  • The U.S. needs more than 200,000 new RNs annually to replace those retiring – and we’re only about halfway through the anticipated wave of Baby Boomer retirements.
  • Between 2016 and 2026, the RN workforce is projected to increase by 500,000, just one-quarter of the projected need.
  • New data by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) find the U.S. could see an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care.
  • One-third of all currently active physicians will be older than 65 in the next decade.

Source: AAMC, The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2019-2034.

Immediate Planning: Today’s Supply and Demand Dynamics.

The current labor market for RNs and physicians is challenging, making it a priority for employers to strengthen talent pipelines and build skills for the future.

Over the last 12 months, there are approximately 46,685 employers competing for RN talent with over 3 million unique job postings. Of those, only 1 out of 10 positions are filled. In addition, job postings have dramatically increased for RNs in 2021 compared to 2020 levels.

Source: EMSI

Within the physician talent market over the past 12 months, there are 7,042 employers competing for these positions with approximately 244,682 unique job postings. Of those, only 1 out of 50 have been filled. Similar to the RN labor market, job postings have dramatically increased for physicians in 2021 compared to 2020.

Source: EMSI

Perhaps the biggest immediate challenge to overcome is the potential of valuable healthcare workers to exit the profession post-pandemic. In fact, of the 22% of nurses who indicated they may leave their current positions, 60% said they were more likely to leave since the pandemic began driven by a variety of factors, with insufficient staffing, workload, and emotional toll topping the list.

To learn more about the changing landscape of healthcare talent recruitment and other post-pandemic recovery efforts, download Cross Country Healthcare’s extensive, evidence-based guide – Forever Altered: Adapting to a Post-Pandemic Healthcare Landscape.

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