Get up to date with the most recent trends in the locum staffing market in order to be more proactive about planning your locum tenens staffing strategy for 2023!
Estimated at a value of $23.6 billion in 2022, the US healthcare staffing market is estimated to hit around $40.17 billion by 2032, with the locum tenens staffing industry expected to see the most growth in the forecasted period between 2023 and 2032, according to Precedence Research. The most recent survey report released by the Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) revealed that the medical staffing industry, including locum tenens, is seeing significant annual market growth, with locum staffing agencies seeing growth by an average of 27% year by year.
The biggest factor driving this rapid market growth is an ongoing shortage of medical providers at healthcare facilities. The Medical Group Management Association’s (MGMA) 2022 survey of 673 healthcare institutions across the country reports that 58% of respondents expect staffing to be their healthcare facility’s largest challenge heading into 2023.
Behind the ongoing shortage of healthcare workers are multiple factors, including an aging population and burnout. More and more medical providers are experiencing burnout, or physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion from their work. Exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, burnout is leading to significant staffing shortages across all healthcare specialties and provider types, as more healthcare workers leave the profession.
16.8% of the population was aged 65 or older in 2021, and expectations for this number to hit 21% by 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With aging populations needing more care, whether in nursing homes or hospitals, there is a growing demand for medical services paired with a diminishing supply of providers in the healthcare workforce.
The workforce in the hospital subsector has dipped by almost 90,000 providers since March of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and this trend is only expected to continue across all healthcare sectors. So what can healthcare institutions do to prepare for workforce shortages heading into 2023?
It is first important to understand where demand is growing most in order to anticipate which provider types you will need to account for in your locum tenens staffing plan for 2023. The physician shortage is projected to hit a shortage of as many as 122,000 physicians to fill demand by 2032, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).
This includes shortages of between 17,800 and 48,00 primary care physicians, and 21,000 and 77,100 non-primary care physicians by 2034. Moreover, shortages in specific specialties will also be prevalent, with a shortage of between 15,800 and 30,200 physicians in surgical specialties, between 3,800 and 13,400 for medical specialties, and between 10,300 and 35,600 for other specialties.
The assumption that healthcare facilities need not worry about the physician shortage until these projections are realized down the line is an irresponsible one, as the physician shortage still affects the healthcare industry today. AAMC predictions indicate that healthcare institutions should expect to see the most physician staff shortages for primary care physicians, specialty physicians, and surgeons in both in 2023, and moving forward.
BLS also predicts a whopping 40% employment growth rate for nurse practitioners and CRNAs, which is much faster than the average employment growth rate across all U.S. industries, with 118,600 projected job openings every year between now and 2031. However, with the number of nurse practitioner graduates steadily increasing from around 3,000 to about 4,000, and some 2,400 CRNAs every year, there is not currently projected to be a shortage of these advanced practice providers, as supply is currently meeting demand.
For physician assistants, BLS predicts a much faster than average growth rate as well, at a rate of 28% and with 38,400 new openings every year from now until 2031. With at least 11,000 PAs having graduated from 277 accredited programs in 2021, and this graduation rate increasing as 20 more PA programs are in development, the supply of physician assistants is also plentiful.
While healthcare facilities struggle to find physicians to fill gaps in coverage, especially in primary care, one possible solution is to increase the employment of NPs and PAs in order to compensate for the physician shortage. However, this potential fix is hotly debated among the healthcare industry, and is not a long term solution to alleviating physician staffing shortages past 2023.