Study: No end in sight for California health care shortage

November 6, 2007 by Emsi Burning Glass

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A new study paints a grim picture of CA’s labor shortage in health care.

California needs to act quickly and dramatically to solve a serious health-care worker shortage, according to a study released today. Researchers with the Oakland-based Campaign for College Opportunity concluded that California’s 109 community colleges in particular need to expand classes in nursing and other allied health fields.

The shortage will reach crisis levels once baby boomers start retiring en masse in about five years, noted the study, which was funded by Kaiser Permanente, the state’s largest private health-care employer. There are too few nurses and medical technicians.

Read the article here.

According to EMSI’s occupational projections, California’s top ten in-demand health care occupations (ranked by total new job growth projected for 2007-12) are

  1. Registered nurses (about 36,000 new jobs and 59,000 replacement jobs)

  2. Medical assistants (about 11,500 new jobs and 19,000 replacement jobs)

  3. Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants (about 11,000 new jobs and 18,000 replacement jobs)

  4. Home health aides (about 10,000 new jobs and 12,000 replacement jobs)

  5. Dental assistants (about 9,000 new jobs and 14,000 replacement jobs)

  6. Dental hygenists (about 5,000 new jobs and 5,500 replacement jobs)

  7. Physicians and surgeons (about 4,700 new jobs and 5,800 replacement jobs)

  8. Licensed practical and vocational nurses (about 4,500 new jobs and 11,000 replacement jobs)

  9. Medical secretaries (about 2,800 new jobs and 8,000 replacement jobs)

  10. Physical therapists (about 2,400 new jobs and 2,500 replacement jobs)

Meanwhile, EMSI expects the state’s fastest-growing age groups to be in the 55-74 and 85+ year ranges, resulting in what the article describes as a “double whammy” of retiring health care workers and a larger senior citizen population in need of health care.

Demographic data suggest that the influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants may well be the key to solving the worker shortage.  According to EMSI demographic projections, these populations are expected to grow by 11% in the next five years while growth of white non-Hispanics is expected to be basically flat. And the Hispanic and Asian populations are also overwhelmingly younger than other groups, with an estimated 81% under the age of 50 and 51% under the age of 30 in 2007 (compare to white non-Hispanics at 62% under 50 and 34% under 30).

Since 8 of the top 10 growing occupations require 2 years or less of postsecondary education (the exceptions being physicians/surgeons and physical therapists), it seems more than feasible for community colleges to rapidly recruit and train new health care workers from these populations. However, as the above article points out, many colleges are having trouble meeting student demand, with waiting lists for programs such as nursing. The message to California’s educational system is clear.