By: John Rossheim
While many organizations digest the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on healthcare staffing, one thing seems certain -- the pace of healthcare hiring in 2013 will be hectic.
That's the consensus of recruiters and clinicians who themselves are almost too busy breath.
“On 2012, hiring has been gangbusters, especially from the summer on,” says John Fulcher, CSAM, director of healthcare recruiting for Bauer Consulting Group in El Paso, Texas.
Sensing that their rivals are on firmer financial footing, healthcare employers have picked up the pace of hiring.
“Companies now have to make hiring decisions very fast” or risk losing talent to the competition, Fulcher says.
The sectors of medicine with the strongest need to hire will follow the long-term trend.
“There will be continuing rapid growth in geriatric care and preventive health services enabled by the Affordable Care Act,” says Gerrit Salinas, director of medical staffing at Snelling Staffing Services in Dallas.
ACA Spikes Rising Demand for Healthcare Workers
The continuing implementation of Affordable Care Act hiring will create a surge of demand on top of the growing need for healthcare spearheaded by the aging of the boomer generation.
In 2013, more people will be seeking healthcare, and clinician-to-patient ratios must be met, says Fulcher. But health care reform isn’t the only mammoth government program that will affect how much healthcare Americans will consume.
“Healthcare employers aren’t really sure what the ACA means,” says Salinas. “Many tell me they’re more concerned about cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.”
The Growing Demand for MDs
“With the ACA in place, the biggest trend in demand is for primary care and internal medicine doctors,” says Tony Stajduhar, president of the permanent physician recruitment division at Jackson & Coker in Alpharetta, Ga.
Hospital employment is further stretching the already thin supply of primary care doctors.
“Employers know they have to add more primary care physicians to staff, so recruitment is more competitive and fierce than ever before,” says Stajduhar.
He notes that there’s a shortage “even before you put in the 30 million Americans to be covered under ACA.”
The physician shortage is exacerbated on the supply side as well, Stajduhar says. “Residency programs aren’t growing, and the percentage of doctors age 55 and up is hitting the panic point.”
As hospitals strive to boost their top lines wherever they can in 2013, demand for some physician specialties will also rise.
“The most growth will be in the moneymaking service lines -- especially cardiovascular and orthopedic surgery,” says Fulcher. The creation or expansion of service lines also requires headcount increases in supporting health occupations.
Many Clinical and Allied Specialties Are Increasingly Competitive
The same demographic trends -- among both patients and the health professionals who care for them -- will drive recruiting for healthcare in many occupations in addition to physicians.
Salinas says that most competitive recruiting for in-demand healthcare jobs in 2013 will be for occupational therapists as well as hiring physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, specialist nurses, certified nursing assistants and home health aides.
Health care recruitment in the therapy professions will be particularly strong.
“In OT, the range of job opportunities is fantastic,” says Karen Jacobs, Ed.D., OTR/L, a clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University. “With the aging American population, we seem to be recession-proof.”
OT has expanded its scope to include mental health, cancer care, child obesity, chronic disease management, and even telehealth, according to Jacobs.
Skilled nursing facilities, schools, rehabs and home health agencies all compete for occupational therapists, who along with PTs, are in perennial shortage.
But even as they compete for scarce clinical talent, employers -- at least prestigious ones -- are often setting a higher bar for health professionals in some specialties.
“Everyone wants you to have a four-year degree now,” says Tara Malkiewicz, who received her BSN from West Chester University in spring 2012 and is starting work in an ICU step-down unit at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“Hospitals in bigger cities have more applicants to choose from. Penn Health in Philadelphia is huge, but I would have needed two to three years of experience.”
Indeed, geography can be a substantial factor in the difficulty of filling orders for clinicians. “We’re seeing surges in demand wherever there’s a low supply of doctors – especially in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Utah and Idaho,” says Salinas.