7 market dynamics rural healthcare recruiting must navigate in 2024
Recruiting of physicians and nurse practitioners may become more challenging as the demand for healthcare continues to grow while the supply of providers shrinks
Most healthcare facilities are acutely aware of the talent acquisition challenges facing healthcare organizations. What they may not have considered is the impact some macro market dynamics have contributed.
To that end, an annual report, the 2023 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, by AMN Healthcare (formerly Merritt Hawkins), now in its 30th year, does well to identify seven such dynamics.
1. The U.S. population continues to grow
Citing data from the Census Bureau, the report says, “The U.S. population is projected to grow from 332 million people today to 423 million by 2050.” Forecasts like this may vary depending on who is doing the counting, but most projections forecast continued growth and this drives demand for healthcare services.
2. The U.S. population is aging
No other generation has contributed more to the U.S. population than the Baby Boomers, which Pew Research classifies as people ages 55 to 73. This cohort is aging and “older people see a physician at three or four times the rate of younger people and account for a highly disproportionate number of surgeries, diagnostic tests, and other medical procedures,” according to reporting by Time.
3. The rise of chronic conditions
The report cites CDC data indicating, “6 in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes or lung disease, while 4 in 10 have two or more.” This puts a capstone on three separate but interrelated trends: a growing population needs more providers; an aging population needs to see those providers more often – and for more complicated health issues.
4. Providers are burning out
While many attribute healthcare burnout to the pandemic, the evidence suggests it started well before. The report says, “Burnout among physicians was labeled a public health crisis by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health prior to COVID-19.” That happened in 2019 – more than a year before the W.H.O. declared Covid a pandemic.
Whereas the first three challenges add more demand for healthcare services, this impacts the supply of providers qualified to offer care. The fact is more employers are chasing fewer providers. The pandemic merely compounded an existing trend making it all the more dire.
5. Providers are aging too
It’s not just the population that’s getting older, many providers are themselves part of the Baby Boomer generation. The report says, citing the AMA, “that 30% of physicians in active patient care are 60 or older, creating a looming ‘retirement cliff’ in the physician workforce.”
6. A perpetual talent crunch
As a country, we may not be doing enough to train more providers. AMN Healthcare says, “Federal funding for physician training was capped in 1997 and has been limited since, restricting the number of new physicians.”
This is a reference to “a cap on the number of Medicare-funded residency slots for medical school graduates” imposed by Congress. This is a big hit because Medicare provides health insurance to about one in five U.S. citizens and accounts for 21% of annual healthcare expenditures in the country.
7. Providers have more employment options
The report does well to highlight the fact that providers have more opportunities to choose where they want to work. As the report puts it, “Many physicians are embracing practice styles such as part-time, locum tenens, employment and nonclinical roles that reduce overall full-time-equivalents (FTEs).”
Keeping your recruiting process organized
AMN Healthcare points out that provider shortages “are often thought to be concentrated in smaller communities and rural areas.” However, the report indicates larger and more urban healthcare facilities are facing the same challenges.
Perhaps there’s some solace to be had knowing rural facilities aren’t alone in the challenge. On the other hand, it just adds to the competition for talent, which is why rural hospitals need to have their recruiting process in good working order.
The full report is available for download here: 2023 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives.
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