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Life Health > Long-Term Care Planning

Doctor vacancies soar as PPACA rolls out

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Just as new patients are set to start looking for care under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, providers face a startling reality: Doctor and nurse vacancies are approaching nearly 20 percent.

AMN Healthcare said the vacancy rate for physicians at hospitals is now nearing18 percent. While the vacancy rate for nurses is 17 percent, more than three times what it was in 2009.

There hasn’t been a shortage of previous reports about the ongoing doctor shortage itself, but AMN’s is different because it identifies an exact number of vacancies — and a startling jump from just four years prior.

In 2009, vacancies for nurses were just 5.5 percent while doctor vacancies hovered at 10.7 percent.

Related story: Can nurse practitioners do more?

“Change in health care is a continuous evolution, but the one constant is people,” AMN president and chief executive officer Susan Salka said. “No matter what models of care are in place, it takes physicians, nurses and other clinicians to provide quality patient care, and the fact is we simply do not have enough of them.”

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants also are in short supply with AMN reporting a vacancy rate of 15 percent. The growth in vacancy rates is due to a number of factors, including the impact of PPACA, the improving economy, a growing demand for services and an aging clinical workforce, AMN executives said.

The health care staffing firm surveyed hospital executives and found that a whopping 78 percent said the nation is facing a physician shortage, while 66 percent said there’s a shortage of nurses, and 50 percent said there’s a shortage of advanced practitioners.

Worse yet, the survey found that more than 65 percent of hospital executives believe the influx of newly insured patients will increase the need for physicians at their facilities, while 63 percent said the law will increase the need for nurses and more than 52 percent said it will increase the need for nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

AMN Healthcare also found that more than 70 percent rated the staffing of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants as a high priority in 2014. That’s a huge jump from the 24 percent who said it was a priority in 2009. It won’t be an easy road, though: Hospital executives said recruitment of physicians and nurses is especially difficult.

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