This paper looks at the demographics of the health care workforce. The trends in this field indicate that the health care workers who are aging are more than the younger ones. This trend seems to persist and in the next few years, the health care industry is going to be faced with labor shortages. Another problem indicated is that there are very few young people who are joining the health care training institutions in relation to the current and future health care demands. More so, there are not enough educators especially for nursing thus multiplying the problem. As a result of this, the industry will face many challenges in the future with the developments in diagnostic and treatment technology.
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Therefore, it is quite essential to take appropriate measures to reverse this situation to bring about improvements in the health care industry. Ways suggested reversing the current trend include among others; promoting the training of more young people in this field as well as coming up with new appropriate policies that can bring about positive changes in the health care sector.
In the United States of America, the health care workforce comprises an extensive collection of professionals. This group comprises practitioners, administrators, caregivers, illustrators, scientists, photographers, social workers, and counselors as well. The health care industry provides services twenty-four hours a day to people as well as animals, from the new babies to those that are seriously sick. The work of the health care workers is to bring together the art of caring and scientific technology in order to offer their patients high-quality care.
These workers generally are likely to be of old age and retain their employment in their profession for a longer time than those who work in other sectors. This comes about partially as a result of the duration necessary for one to get the high level of education that is needed in the several professions of health care.
Many of the health care professionals do their job in an estimated 545,000 establishments which have varied levels of staffing trends and organizational systems. In the year 2004, the health care sector was the biggest sector in the United States of America. About thirteen million jobs were basically allocated to offices in this industry. The physicians’ offices took sixteen percent of these jobs were allocated to physicians offices, nursing was allocated twenty-two percent and the remaining forty percent went to hospitals. A large proportion of those who are self-employed together with family workers who are not paid did their job in the offices of the practitioners. Most of these jobs were allocated to the major states. They were allocated to the states like California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida. But still, consideration has been there and the health care jobs are as well allocated to other parts of the country.
It was established that one-fifth of the health care workers worked on a part-time basis. This came about due to various reasons and among them is that: among the workers, there were those who parents with children who needed their care most often, others were getting old and were unable to work for a long time, some of them were students and spend part of their time carrying out their studies and also among these workers there were those who were as well working elsewhere. A large proportion of the health care workers have multiple jobs. This applies mostly to those workers who do their job in shifts like nurses. Approximately four out of ten of those workers in the offices of dentists are part-timers and about three out of ten of the workers in the offices of other practitioners are part-timers as well (Quan, 2009).
Analysis of Trends of the Demographics of the Health Care Workforce and Their Implications for Human Resource
According to Barney (2002), there has been a remarkable alteration in the United States workforce for the last thirty years. The withholding and enrollment efforts in the healthcare sector have not matched with the shifting demographics. As a result of the people getting old together with the improvements in diagnostic and treatment technology, the healthcare services will encounter unmatched demand in the years to come. In order to succeed in clearing off the higher demand, leaders in the healthcare sector must clearly analyze the trends in the demographics and come up with strategies relating to recruitment and retention that can be relevant to the coming up workforce of this century. This is also echoed by Mankin, Marie, Patricia, Judith & Joan (2005). They suggest that the workforce in health care is at the present not well prepared for the growing number of the older population and the complexities that are arising pertaining the healthcare needs. They give a specific example that there are not very many people who are trained in the field of geriatrics and lament that those people who are responsible for developing the appropriate curricula have been moving at a very low pace. The lack of quick development of the educational curricula in the field of healthcare has made it quite difficult to train people especially in the field of geriatrics.
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According to Collins (2007), the health care industry goes on to be faced with a shortage of labor. This issue continues to bring many complications to the present challenges that are facing the industry following the population that is growing old that is soon going to retire in the coming few years. With the less number of people in the age bracket of 25 years to 44 years, a workforce that is moving out, and a general decrease in the number of those people who are looking for employment in the health care industry, this will turn out to bring in a very big shortage of the employees in the entire health care industry. Making the necessary arrangements to face this challenge is quite vital in ensuring the continuity of the health care industry. Many organizations in this industry have considered planning for succession in order to deal with the prospective shortage of labor. But in general terms, the health care sector tends to be still behind the rest of the sectors in regard to the efforts made in the planning of succession (Collins, 2007).
Minnesota Hospital Association (2006) report indicates that the projected demographics exhibit a shortage in the workforce that will bring in challenges to the overall business operations working at the present capacity. This report indicates that the professions that will be affected much are those that are in the technical trade areas where the expertise levels are more difficult to learn and have much regulation. Health care falls under this employment category. Relating computer professionals with the health care professionals, the report indicates that the computer professionals can learn while on the job while the health care professionals need to abide by a firm educational procedure in order for them to give efficient services to the patients. Most of the employees in the health care industry need to be licensed or registered and to be certified. There is no possibility for one to evade the health care staff regulatory requirements without breaking the law.
The report went ahead and showed that there is a need for additional nurses for Minnesota. There was a projection that indicated that there will be a shortage of about 8000 nurses by the year 2020. By 2020, the projected rate of nurse vacancy was 14.6 percent. However, according to the report, the shortage in the health care workforce is not limited to nurses alone but also extends to other professionals in this industry. This shortage will face specialists such as laboratory scientists, the radiological technicians among other professionals in the field. A greater impact of this will be felt on the smaller hospitals which may employ just one laboratory professional. Only one vacancy may lead to the closure of the hospital up to the time the vacant position is filled. Rosseter (2009) also gives information concerning the issue of the shortage of nurses. He reports that it is projected that the shortage of nurses in the United States of America will grow to about 260,000 nurses who are registered by the year 2025. He reports that this shortage will come about as a result of more and more baby boomers going on retirement. The shortage is also a result of the growing demands for health care services.
Many service positions do exist like food service, housekeeping, and clerical positions that are also encountering shortages. The major problem here is that most of the other sectors are seriously competing for these workers. This report gives an example of the Minnesota casinos. These industries require a large number of workers and they are in a position to pay these workers more than hospitals can do. According to the report, the data released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Security showing the present vacancy in jobs by industry indicated that the health care sector is in the lead standing at 19 percent of overall vacancies. The challenge that is being faced in having a satisfactory number of qualified workers in health care goes on bringing an impact on the entire operations in hospitals (Karl, 2007). If this trend persists and appropriate measures are not taken, grave results could come about and such results may include an increase in the cases of communicable diseases, an increase in the health care costs, and a reduction in the access by people to the appropriate quality health care.
Anonymous, (Sourcing talent in a Demanding Environment, 2008) makes a contribution concerning this problem of labor shortage. It is reported, just like the other reports, that the health care industry is being faced with a talent deficiency that is posing a great threat to its continued existence. The author reports that the industry is dominated by females and part-timers. It is suggested that when there is a large proportion of women in any particular industry, the industry is more likely to be affected seriously whenever there are variations in family situations. The ratio of women in the labor force is at the highest proportion ever, causing it to be less likely that there will be larger female involvement. More so, it is also reported that about one-fifth of the workforce is part-time work.
This author further reports that in the year 2004, the rate at which the students were admitted to the nursing training institutions went down at an estimated rate of 9.5 percent. The gravity of the situation was intensified by the presence of an inadequate number of teachers for nursing to attend to the students. This author comments that there is no possibility of solving this problem in the near future. This is also supported by Decter (2008), where he reported that in nursing education, the low number of educators in this field will continue to be a major challenge in this field in the future. Anonymous (Sourcing talent in a Demanding Environment, 2008) goes ahead to point out another problem concerning this issue of the labor force shortage. It is indicated that more than 8000 baby boomers go on retirement each day and unfortunate enough, this group of people forms the largest percentage of the workforce in the health care industry. This is considered to be a very big problem since there are not enough young professionals to take the place of these people. As this generation gets older they will not be able to deal with those jobs in health care that are physically demanding and reduce their services by becoming part-timers and then subsequently go on retirement. At their retirement, they will intensify the problem by themselves being in need of health care services. It is projected that there will be 40 percent vacancies that will come about as a result of retirement within a period of the coming ten years. The remaining 60 percent of the vacancies in the health care industry will result from the demand that would have gone up for the health care services.
These trends that have been observed give a clear indication that appropriate measures need to be taken with immediate urgency in order to save the health care industry. So far several organizations are doing their best to deal with this problem of labor shortage in the health care industry. For instance, the Minnesota Hospital Association report indicates that, in order to deal with this problem of health care workforce shortage, the Minnesota Hospital Association Workforce Development Committee is working so hard to obtain the solution. The committee’s goals from the beginning of this century have been to bring up the number of the health care workers who are qualified through recruitment, to promote the practices that are better to retain the employees they are currently having, to evaluate once more the present workflow to utilize the resources more effectively and efficiently and the other goal is to give the leaders in health care the present data and patterns in recruitment, the best utilization of the available resources, and retention. The Minnesota Hospital Association report says that these goals will go on directing the efforts for the coming five years. Emphasis has mostly been put on retention and recruitment. With some training institutions refusing to admit potential students and the closely related health education programs like the clinical laboratory scientists being closed, the task force has been given much priority to the transformation of the process of education as one of the leading strategies that have to be employed in dealing with issues concerning the health care workforce (Minnesota Hospital Association, 2006).
There is a great need to have additional training of workers who are young in order to take up the positions of the large number of those people who are going on retirement in the health care industry (Kabene & Orchard, n.d.). Measures have to be taken to promote programs that enhance the training of more young people in this field.
According to Anonymous (Building the capacity to improve quality: Engaging the health care workforce, 1998), the changing work structure in the health care industry calls for changes in the way the programs in the education of this field and the way in which they operate. The curricula for the training of the workers in the health care industry that puts much consideration of the new technological changes should be developed with speed in order to have workers who are well versed with the current needs. In general terms, there should be good management of the human resources needed in the health care industry in order to provide effective and efficient health care to the people. More so, more researches need to be carried out in order to develop appropriate new policies (Anonymous, The future of health care workforce, 2009).
Anonymous (1998). Building the capacity to improve quality: Engaging the health care workforce. President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Heath Care Industry, Web.
Anonymous (2008). Sourcing talent in a Demanding Environment, Human capital management research, Future Healthcare. Web.
Anonymous (2009). The future of health care workforce. Grant Makers Health, Web.
Barney, S. M. (2002). A changing workforce calls for Twenty century Strategies, Journal for healthcare management.
Collins, S. K. (2007). Changing workforce Demographic necessitates succession planning in health care. The health care manager, Vol 26, Issue 4, pp 318 – 325, Web.
Decter, M. B. (2008). Healthcare Systems and Organizations: Implications for health Human resources. Healthcare Quarterly. Vol.11 no. 2. Web.
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Kabene, S. M, & Orchard C, (Not Dated), The importance of Human Resource management in health care. Mark A Soriano, Raymond Leduc. Web.
Karl, P. (2007), Assisted living state regulatory review 2007. National Clearinghouse on the Direct Care Workforce, Web.
Mankin, A. L, Marie A. B, Patricia B, Judith S, Joan W,(2005). Bridging the Workforce Gap for Our Aging Society: How to Increase and Improve Knowledge and Training. Report of an Expert Panel. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol 53, Issue 2, P343.
Minnesota Hospital Association, (2006), Health care work force. Minnesota Hospital Association, Web.
Quan, K. (2009). Health care Industry Demographics. The Everything Guide to Careers in Healthcare, Web.
Rosseter, R. (2009). Nursing shortage. American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Web.