Hospitals Facing 'War on Talent' as Obamacare Looms

Sunday, 08 Dec 2013 11:21 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The nation's hospitals are facing a "war for talent" at a time they expect scores of new patients, covered through Obamacare policies, to come seeking medical care.

The vacancy rate for hospital physicians is at around 18 percent this year, and the nurse vacancy rate is around 17 percent, according to a survey by health care provider staffing firm AMN Healthcare. Just four years ago, vacancies for nurses were at 5.5 percent, with doctors' vacancies at 10.7 percent, reports Forbes.

Editor's Note: Video Exposes Dangers of Obamacare Law

“Cost is the healthcare workforce issue of most concern to hospital executives, though they also find physician/hospital alignment, the move to quality based provider compensation, high vacancy rates, and the influx of insurance patients through the Affordable Care Act to be of concern,” AMN Healthcare said in the report.

Sean Gregory, president of Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Fla., told Forbes that his hospital is actively hiring and building up cores of physician assistants and nurse practitioners to help meet healthcare needs, but noted that there is a "war for talent" in his hospital and others.

There is also a shortage in nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the AMN Healthcare survey said, with a vacancy rate of about 15 percent.

But while hospitals are facing shortages, Obamacare also encourages the use of clinics and doctors' offices, rather than hospitals and emergency rooms, where healthcare costs are much more expensive.

In addition, many of the Affordable Care Act's health plans link to accountable care organizations, which work to reward providers for cooperating on quality and cost control. But to make the ACOs work, hospitals will need to hire more new nurse practitioners.

"The doctor shortage is worse than most people think," Steven Berk, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine at Texas Tech University, told the AARP, Berk said, because the population is getting older, there is more need for primary care physicians.

"At the same time, physicians are getting older, too, and they're retiring earlier," Berk says. According to a Physicians Foundation survey, almost half of the nation's 830,000 doctors are over the age of 50, and are seeing fewer patients.

Fewer people are choosing to become primary care doctors because of the prospect of huge medical school costs that can saddle graduates with as much as a quarter-million dollars of student loan debt, AARP reports.

This means many people wanting to practice primary care are instead choosing lucrative specialties which can pay two to three times the $150,000 to $170,000 salary primary care physician earns.

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