Healthcare job demand reaches all-time high

Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, there has been a sharp rise in new healthcare jobs, with nearly half a million added in 2015 alone.

If the latest 2016 employment and open enrollment data are any indication, this growth shows no signs of slowing down. Hospitals, ambulatory care centers, and even schools are increasingly under pressure to find qualified healthcare employees. Within the job market, a few healthcare positions in particular are experiencing significantly high demand:

· Hospitalist: The U.S. is experiencing an increasingly problematic physician shortage, and this is particularly true of hospitalists (physicians who work with patients in hospitals instead of clinics). Overall, The Annals of Family Medicine projects that the U.S. will need at least an additional 50,000 primary care physicians by 2025 in order to meet the demand, and many of these jobs will be hospitalists. The combination of the physician labor shortage and the number of new patients who are able to access hospitals because of the ACA has resulted in a huge increase in demand for this position. In February alone, 11,000 new jobs were created in hospitals, including hospitalists. Today, salaries and employment options for hospitalists are at an all-time high, and this trend will only continue for the rest of 2016.

· Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Physician Assistant (PA): In recent years, there has been a major push for patients to seek care outside of a hospital setting through many ACA regulations. This trend, combined with the overall shortage of physicians, has sparked tremendous growth in the demand for both nurse practitioners and physician assistants at outpatient and ambulatory care centers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that over 37,000 new nurse practitioner jobs will be added by 2022. Today, NPs and PAs have been tasked with filling the gaps created by the physician shortage. Along with increased responsibilities and demand, NPs and PAs are also seeing significant salary increases – making it an excellent time to pursue opportunities outside of a hospital setting.

· Occupational Therapist: In August 2015, The American Staffing Association named occupational therapist the hardest job to fill in the past twelve months. The demand for the position is due to a combination of occupational therapists retiring and more people seeking therapy. On one end of the age spectrum, many baby boomers now require occupational therapy services, and on the other end, educators are placing a new focus on the treatment of special needs students, leading to an increased demand for therapists in schools. Today, occupational therapists find themselves in great demand both in medical and non-medical facilities, making it one of the strongest job options for those considering a career in healthcare.

· Registered Nurse (RN): Registered nurses are currently in very high demand, and this is particularly true of inpatient specialty acute care RNs. Specialty acute care RNs work in a number of roles such as emergency room nurses, operating room nurses, and critical care nurses. Today, the demand, especially from hospitals, is the highest it has ever been for nurses with at least two to three years of acute care experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts more than 19% growth in the number of RNs by 2022. The high demand is driving up salaries and creating a number of employment options for nurses with the necessary experience.

As the demand for these and other healthcare professionals continues to grow, new parties will need to step up to fill these gaps between patient demands and the resources of facilities. Medical schools are doing everything they can to provide a high volume of quality graduates, but this will not be enough to address the shortage in the years to come. The U.S. will have to look for creative ways to sustainably care for its population. What is known for sure is that as more people become insured, the demand for and responsibilities of a wide range of healthcare professionals will continue to increase.

Kyle Mattice is President of Health Services, at The Execu|Search Group, a recruitment, temporary staffing, and workforce management solutions firm. Follow The Execu|Search Group on Twitter @ExecuSearch.

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