Physician Shortage and Staffing problems in US Hospitals

COVID-19 has put extreme stress on the United States healthcare workforce, causing shortages and increasing fatigue, burnout, and trauma among healthcare workers. Unanswered questions are what the pandemic means to the healthcare workforce, as well as the patients they serve since it's extending on without end.

As a result of COVID-19, the country lost approximately 1.5 million healthcare jobs in the first two months as it shut down clinics and restricted non-emergency services at U.S. hospitals to contain the novel coronavirus. Despite the return of many of those jobs, the number of healthcare workers remains below pre-pandemic levels with a reduction of 176,000 workers compared to February 2020, according to the labor department.

Exhaustion and Burnout

COVID-19 has been exhausting and burnout-inducing for the healthcare workforce. One in three healthcare workers who remain said that they considered quitting during the pandemic. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which analyzes the physician workforce, the United States had nearly 20,000 fewer doctors than needed in 2019. The group estimates that by 2034, the gap could reach as many as 124,000 due to a lack of primary care doctors.

As reported by AAMC, Medscape, and Definitive Healthcare, nearly, 117,000 clinicians and 333,942 healthcare workers left the workforce in 2021. Several specialties reported 60% burnout rates and this number correlates with higher rates of physician loss. Currently, 45% of clinicians are older (>55 years). Hence, in the next 10 days, more than 40% of clinicians will become 65 or older.

According to National Nurses United, an organization that claims 175,000 members across the country, the majority of states have sufficient nurses to meet demand, but hospital staffing and safety policies discourage nurses from working in hospitals.

Governors’ Proposals

Some governors, including those in Alabama, Colorado, Maine, New York, and Wisconsin, are pushing for higher compensation for healthcare workers. There have been proposals to expand nurse education programs in Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. A proposal from Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, for example, proposes training more nurses and adding medical residency slots with millions of dollars. Eventually, he said, 1,300 more healthcare workers are to be hired.

COVID-19 has affected hospitals and health systems throughout the nation, and hospitals and health systems are taking action in many ways to help their communities. Despite the slow recovery of hospital volumes, patient acuity and demand have increased. Hospitals have had to incur significant costs in recruiting and retaining employees due to an increase in demand that has not been met by increases in staffing. In the meantime, physicians are fighting against compensation cuts with their employers and the Federal Government. Above all, the major shocking factor is the decision of care providers to make a change as they are unable to put up with the ever-rising demands.

New Technologies for Combating Shortage

The rise of new technologies makes it possible to be much more flexible when it comes to staffing as well. Here’s the staffing platform named ProLocums for physicians and Voysta for nurses and allied health professionals. They verify the qualifications of healthcare professionals and connect them to employers with open positions in healthcare.

Need for New Long-Term Strategies

Employers should develop long-term strategies for recruiting and retaining employees if the labor shortage is expected to persist for the next decade. To attract new applicants and create a strong pipeline of future employees, businesses should offer benefits like student loan repayment, referral bonuses, and subsidized housing.


Healthcare workers lost 1.5 million jobs because clinics and hospitals temporarily closed in April 2020 and postponed surgeries to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, multiple studies suggested.

While healthcare employment returned to pre-pandemic levels by the fall of 2020, it still lagged 2.7% behind. Between January 2019 and March 2020, 1.3% of physicians were either unemployed or left the labor force, according to the researchers. This increased to 1.6% by December 2020, then to 1.7% by October 2021.

Hence, many industry stakeholders will be looking for solutions as the healthcare staffing shortage continues. Multiple technologies and effective strategies can be adopted to curb the problem as well as many government initiatives can also help.

In the meantime, address your care facility staffing shortage by signing up ProLocums for hiring locum tenens physicians or Voysta for hiring nurses and allied health professionals.

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