White Paper December 30, 2021

Healthcare Worker Shortage Draws High Demand for Temporary Staffing

As an industry leader in healthcare staffing, AMN Healthcare annually publishes multiple surveys and reports to provide data on a variety of healthcare workforce-related topics. In 2021, AMN’s inaugural Survey of Temporary Allied Healthcare Professional Staffing Trends helped shed light on the demand for temporary allied healthcare professionals at hospitals, medical groups, and other healthcare facilities nationwide.

Data for this report was gathered through surveys emailed to healthcare executives and managers at these facilities during August and September of 2021. Survey findings indicate that despite the already elevated usage of temporaryallied healthcare workers, facilities continue to seek temporary workers to bolster their staffing needs in an uncertain climate.

Demand for Respiratory Therapists

When addressing the job categories listed in the survey, 26% of respondents indicated they had used temporary respiratory therapists over the last year, more than any other allied healthcare profession.

Typically, demand for respiratory therapists has been driven by the prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the third leading cause of death in the country. Over 11 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, millions more potentially having it without their knowledge.

However, demand for respiratory therapists has seen a significant spike because of COVID-19. Respiratory therapists are instrumental in treating patients affected with COVID-19, who experience shortness of breath and low oxygen levels. Respiratory therapists help manage devices that deliver high levels of oxygen therapy, including:

  • Heated high-flow nasal cannulas
  • Non-invasive ventilation
  • Ventilators

While recovering from COVID-19, patients may experience long-term respiratory issues, which could contribute to a prolonged increase in demand for respiratory therapists for the foreseeable future.

Demand for Laboratory Technologists & Radiologic Technologists

Laboratory technologists rank second in demand among allied healthcare professions, with 25% survey respondents indicating they have used temporary laboratory technologists overthe past year. Demand has accelerated with COVID-19 but was present before and likely will continue after the pandemic—expected to increase 7% nationally between 2019 and 2029, more than double the average increase in demand across all occupations (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).

Further, Mercer’s U.S. Healthcare External Market Analysis projects a shortage of 98,700 medical and laboratory technologists by 2025, the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (ASCLS) adding that “the profession is educating less than half of the number of laboratory professionals needed.” (CNN, 2018)

Ranking third in demand among temporary allied healthcare professionals are radiologic technologists, with 21% of respondents indicating they have used temporary radiologic technologists over the past year. Strong demand for radiologic technologists signals that utilization of healthcare procedures is returning from the halt of elective and other procedures due to COVID-19.

A survey by the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) indicates that 81% of healthcare facility imaging departments are experiencing a shortage of imaging technologists—citing burnout and heavy work schedules as the main drivers of the shortage. Like laboratory technologists, a shortage of radiologic technologists can delay imaging test turnaround times, leading to extended wait times forfurther patient care.

Demand for Speech Language Pathologists, Physical Therapists, & Occupational Therapists

The survey also indicates a demand for temporary therapy positions, 17%of respondents indicating the use of temporary physical therapists, 9% for occupational therapists, and 8% for speech-language pathologists (SLP) over the last year.

Physical therapyjob openings are projected to grow faster than most job categories, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, citing population aging as a key factor—more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day. As senior citizens pursue more active lifestyles, Medicare and The Affordable Care Act offer them access to physical therapy as an essential service, adding to the potential for increased demand into the future.

While demand for temporary occupational therapists has remained consistent, demand for temporary SLPs has showed signs of increase. With limited openings in SLP graduate programs and an increased need for SLPs as their scope of practice widens, the autism rate grows, and the population ages, the gap between openings and qualified professionals has continued to grow. The SLP shortage has been most prevalent in schools, many of which are required to provide SLP programs to their students in need.


AMN Healthcare’s 2021 Survey of Temporary Allied Healthcare Professional Staffing Trends illustrates the continued necessity for healthcare professionals across the allied spectrum. As demand continues to grow for many allied healthcare positions—namely respiratory therapists, laboratory technologists, radiologic technologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists—facilities can use temporary allied healthcare professionals as an effective solution.

AMN Healthcare's Allied Services Team is ready to support and find a solution for your staffing needs with talented health care professionals and client specialists.

Call 800-236-8038 or submit a staffing request to start working with one of our consultants.