Shortages Hit Allied Professions

shortages hit allied professionalsFor years, healthcare providers have dealt with physician and nurse shortages, but now allied professionals are becoming in short supply as well. Hospitals are turning to outside experts to keep their organizations fully staffed to expertly care for patients.

“We’re seeing an increase in demand for rehabilitation therapists across all settings,” said Darin Lyons, divisional vice president of client sales for AMN Healthcare in Irving, Texas.

“It’s been an ongoing issue with therapy for years, but we never quite saw the shortages with imaging, respiratory and laboratory professions,” said Linda Murphy, division vice president, Allied Division of AMN Healthcare in Boca Raton, Florida. “That all changed in early 2015. Demand is now extremely high.”

Murphy and Lyons attribute some of the increased demand to the Affordable Care Act enabling more people to obtain health coverage.

“We are seeing an increase in mammography,” Murphy said. “You have a lot of people who never had an opportunity to seek regular healthcare and preventive services. With the ACA, they now have coverage.”

Additionally, many people who put off care during the recession are now moving forward with knee or hip replacements and other elective procedures. Murphy thinks people also are more comfortable during the economic recovery in taking time off from their jobs, knowing there will be a job to which they can return.

“The industry is rebounding from the [reimbursement] cuts put in place in 2013 and 2014, so our healthcare and skilled nursing facilities are becoming smarter in how to operate in this reimbursement environment,” Lyons said.

Another reason for the allied shortages is that older healthcare professionals are retiring, Murphy said, and there are not enough new allied professionals to replace them.

“There’s a natural attrition, but we’re trying to fill it with a generation of fewer people than the Baby Boomers,” Murphy said.

AMN Healthcare has been helping providers who are experiencing difficulty in filling vacant allied positions. The solutions are both expert healthcare staffing services to fill demand and innovative workforce management services, known as Workforce Solutions, to optimize both permanent and temporary staff.

In healthcare staffing, Murphy said, “we provide clients with an opportunity to cover their needs by providing temporary staff. We have the largest database of candidates in the Unites States and are also the largest workforce solutions company.”

AMN Workforce Solutions offers a comprehensive suite of innovative solutions, from traditional staffing to management and analytics, which can accurately predict staffing needs. AMN consults with health systems to help facilities operate more efficiently and manage workforce shortages. Managed services can reduce hiring costs and save hospitals and other clients up to 20%.

“A managed services program, or MSP, is a good option,” Lyons said, especially for organizations with multiple locations. “We have a strategic and consultative approach, and that can be beneficial to them.”

MSP is a workforce solution that streamlines the management of vendors and contracts, providing a single point of contact for all workforce processes related to them.

Without staffing and management help in dealing with the growing shortages of allied professionals, healthcare facilities may not have an adequate workforce, resulting in delayed appointments and patients referred elsewhere. That can result in lost revenue, lost goodwill and trust in the community and possibly losing a patient forever, Lyons said.

“Healthcare facilities look to our people to make sure patients can still come through the door,” Murphy added. “We also are the organization that partners with healthcare providers to manage their healthcare delivery appropriately.”

Demand for allied professionals is only expected to grow. For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 36 percent increase in the need for physical therapists and a 39 percent increased need for diagnostic medical sonographers by 2022.

“The allied sector has a higher growth demand projection than nursing, because it’s such a large sector,” Murphy said. “It’s amazing how much opportunity is out there for allied healthcare professionals.”