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2016 Healthcare Staffing Trends

 |  By Lena J. Weiner  
   January 04, 2016

There is good news and bad news for healthcare leaders in the year ahead and beyond, according to experts who share five key points as part of their outlook.

When it comes to healthcare job growth, there's good news and bad news for hospital leadership.

The good news is that while other sectors of the economy seem to languish with a slow 8.9% projected growth rate from 2012–2022, healthcare is booming by comparison with a projected 26.5% growth rate.

And the trend shows no sign of stopping.

"By 2022, nearly one in eight U.S. jobs is projected to be in the healthcare sector," says Patricia Pittman, PhD, codirector of the GW Health Workforce Institute at George Washington University and associate professor of health policy and management, adding that the primary drivers of this trend are demographics and technology.

But hold up. Much of that growth is in non-hospital settings, says Pittman.

"Hospital employment is projected to grow the slowest between 2012 and 2022, increasing by 14% and adding 826,000 jobs," she says.

Source: Patricia Pittman, PhD, codirector of the GW Health Workforce Institute at George Washington University

Despite commonly held assumptions that Medicaid expansion would spur job growth, this has not been so, says Pittman, and new policies around value-based care have been geared toward keeping people out of the hospital through ambulatory care, home health, and preventive medicine.

So, there is opportunity—but much of the growth anticipated will be in jobs outside the hospital, for positions such as home health aides or physical therapists. It's up to hospital leadership to choose wisely when staffing in order to take advantage of the current wave of healthcare growth.

2015: The Year in Review—An HR Perspective

1. RNs: In Demand Like Never Before
"[Registered nurses] are … the largest story" in healthcare growth, says Pittman, who expects the number of nurses hired to increase by as many about 526,800 over the next few years. "We're seeing an incredible spike in the hiring of nurses."

Much of this growth is will be in the areas of advanced practice nursing, licensed practical nurses, and licensed vocational nurses, says Pittman.

Some job availability in nursing will no doubt be due to the number of current nurses who are retiring, but that's not the whole story. As physicians are mandated to work fewer hours in many states, RNs are increasingly being asked to take on duties that had previously been the physician's responsibility.

"[This trend] started with restrictions on resident hours, [but is] now a major strategy to increase physician productivity and contain costs in hospitals," says Pittman.


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Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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