Health professional shortages can be found in several disciplines of healthcare, and the trend is becoming particularly worrying. CNN tallies more than 17,300 and 8,300 practitioners needed in primary care and mental health, respectively, according to statistics from the Health Resources & Services Administration. Additionally, the Association of American Medical Colleges notes that there will likely be a shortage of 124,000 physicians in the United States by 2034. These numbers highlight a growing crisis in the healthcare sector: the struggle for the current workforce to keep up with the increasing demand for healthcare jobs. Below, we take a closer look at the different variables causing these issues, and why it's so important that this changes.
The nature of the healthcare workforce shortage
Unfortunately, the healthcare workforce shortage is not a new problem, but has actually been a global concern for quite some time. As discussed in a 2022 study in the Croatian Medical Journal, this complex issue goes beyond simply filling vacant positions. It encompasses issues related to workforce composition, education, geographic distribution, specialization, patient demographics, practice orientation, and working conditions. Achieving even 80% of this healthcare workforce equation would be a remarkable feat. However, the remaining 20% in unmet goals reflects in reality as a lack of access to crucial healthcare services for some communities. In particular, CNN's article notes that Black and brown communities have up to $451 billion in economic burden when it comes to health inequities. Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine, notes that projections show that these numbers are likely to grow given a significant physician shortage by 2050. This is largely due to the fact that the pace of training and educating healthcare professionals falls short of the overall demand.
The demand for skilled healthcare workers
Rice additionally explains that the shortage of healthcare workers equates to an inability to respond to future pandemics. Developments like the recent pandemic and the ongoing obesity epidemic highlight the need for professionals who can address evolving health challenges and provide appropriate care. Take the field of weight loss medications for example, which has emerged due to the need for obesity and weight loss treatments. Clients and consumers often require professional guidance to select the most suitable option for weight loss drugs. Most patients may not have a complete understanding of the difference between Saxenda vs Wegovy or alternatives like Mounjaro, and healthcare professionals play a crucial role in helping these patients select the medication that best aligns with their obesity management and weight loss goals. This thus shows that the demand for healthcare professionals extends beyond traditional roles to include positions in pharmaceuticals, patient counseling, and healthcare consulting — all of which are necessary for addressing pressing health concerns in society.
Additionally, traditional healthcare professionals, including doctors and clinicians, now find themselves in a landscape where digital literacy is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Professional societies from AOA to AMA and medical schools such as UCSD or UCSF play critical roles in supporting the reskilling of their respective professions. Healthcare professionals must be adept at utilizing high-quality hardware and software technologies as tools for measurement and intervention in healthcare. With tech playing a larger role in the healthcare sphere, the industry's demand for tech experts such as remote digital designers or senior software engineers, as illustrated in our job openings for September Surge, is likely to grow as well. Whether it's filling critical gaps in healthcare workforces, guiding patients through weight loss medication options, or addressing the digital skills talent crisis, healthcare professionals are pivotal in ensuring the industry's growth and transformation. Rise is therefore committed to supporting diverse healthcare professionals through our platform, which allows you to connect with companies that align with your values and career aspirations. With efforts from all sectors of the healthcare professional pipeline — from education to training to placement — weathering this worker shortage is possible.