Challenges the healthcare industry will face in coming years

Challenges the healthcare industry will face in coming years

The healthcare industry is vast, with millions of workers and patients. From physicians to nurses and everything in between, excellent healthcare professionals make the industry work for patients. This doesn’t come without challenges, however, and a few difficulties are coming down the pipeline. This article will take a closer look at the challenges the healthcare industry will face in the coming years.

Nursing shortage

Nurses are often the first thing people think of when imagining a healthcare scare. Nurses interact with patients directly and spend more time with them than physicians, so it makes sense that they leave an indelible mark on the public psyche. Ever since the field of nursing began, these professionals have been at the forefront of public health. However, for such an important field, numerous challenges in nursing make the profession a difficult, albeit highly rewarding, one.

The main challenge the healthcare industry faces with nurses is the lack of them. According to a 2023 survey, 91% of nurses think that the shortage is only becoming worse with time. This is backed up by the data, which states that up to 42 of 50 states in the US might be short on nurses by 2030. While some people would blame this shift on the COVID-19 pandemic alone, the truth is that there are a couple of factors at play exacerbating the decrease in nursing staff.

One of the main issues is the increasing number of older nurses retiring. Another survey conducted in 2020 found that registered nurses are, on average, 52 years old. Within the next six to ten years, they will be leaving the profession en masse, leaving younger nurses to pick up the slack in the workplace. While younger nurses are certainly qualified to take the reins, there simply aren’t enough of them to fill the incoming void.

With that said, the pandemic has contributed its fair share to the problem. It has hastened the retirement of many nurses, with the field becoming almost unbearably stressful at the height of the pandemic. That fatigue has continued, with as many as 35% of nurses being ready to retire from bedside care in 2022.

Regardless of the problems in nursing today, the field is a great one to enter for those who want a role with good job security. Individuals will likely find themselves quite valuable to employers and patients alike, especially if they have a degree from a reputable university. Individuals should consider educators like Spring Arbor University if they are interested in learning more about an online nursing degree. More specifically, individuals could invest in their future career with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. This is an advanced degree that allows nurses to dramatically expand their job responsibilities, authority, and potential, including taking one step closer to a Nurse Practitioner license.

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The good news here is that nursing education is becoming increasingly sophisticated as time passes. Today, it is possible for nurses to complete their degrees online using virtual simulations that prepare them for in-person training. This has dramatically increased access to the nursing field and is sure to result in even more diverse nursing populations.

Physician shortage

Nurses are not the only profession becoming scarce. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the nation might have a physician deficit of more than 120,000 by 2034. There are a few reasons for this shortage, some similar and some distinct from those driving shortages in the nursing field.

First, becoming a physician is incredibly expensive and difficult. Fewer people are willing to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt after around 10 years in school. Another issue is the lack of residency programs. Without enough residency positions, trained doctors are unable to begin practicing as early as they are needed because they must wait for a position to open. Additionally, because there are so few spots, the requirements to land them are increasingly difficult to meet and have left otherwise qualified physicians looking into other fields.

Exacerbating this issue is the number of retiring physicians. As with the nursing field, the physician field is full of older physicians preparing to retire. This is the primary reason behind the incoming shortage, with the expense of medical school and lack of residency positions being the next most common.

Similar to the nursing shortage described above, the field will not stay in a state of flux forever, and as education changes and medical students are able to pursue their degrees more conveniently (including via remote and virtual simulation tools), people who might not have otherwise considered the field will be ready to march toward the healthcare industry.

Exhaustive schedule

Another challenge to the healthcare system in the US is the long shifts and busy schedules. It might seem like common sense that doctors and nurses work a lot, but they shouldn’t necessarily be expected to work more than others. The problem is twofold and stretches between the expense of hiring additional staff and the increasing shortages in the medical field as highlighted above.

Regardless of the exact reason for the long hours, the medical industry is notorious for exhausting schedules. New and old entries to the field are surprised by the sheer number of hours they are expected to work. This, of course, is offset by aspects such as increased job fulfillment and great benefits to an extent.

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Today’s prospective doctors and nurses don’t want to have to work 14 or 18-hour shifts regardless of how much time they receive off in compensation. They prefer a predictable schedule that affords them plenty of time to spend with loved ones and pursue other interests.

Healthcare professionals have shown change was needed in the industry, therefore, the expectations surrounding the career’s long hours are shifting. More employers are seeking to create not just a more livable work schedule, but also an optimized space where medical professionals can relax during their off time.

Workplace violence

This isn’t a topic many people consider when weighing the pros and cons of entering the medical field. But individuals should remember that this career path involves working with sick people, both in the physical and mental senses. This can lead to aggressive behavior in the workplace, sometimes placing medical professionals at risk of being injured. This is a known issue that has driven the demand for hospital guards as well as proper training to handle and de-escalate potential issues.

While the news here seems dire, keep in mind that the healthcare industry is seeing unprecedented changes when it comes to the well-being and safety of professionals and patients alike. Through increased training, new procedures, and perhaps even the addition of new security personnel, this issue will likely abate shortly.

Mental health struggles

Due to the difficult workplace environment and schedule, many healthcare workers live with stress and other mental health difficulties. These are exacerbated by the loss of patients, which always hits medical workers hard. A lack of sleep and a poor diet inevitably contribute even more to compromised mental health.

Luckily, changes are being made in how these issues are handled at an institutional level, so it is possible that nurses might not experience anything like this if they are interested in joining the field. More providers are offering comprehensive mental health services to healthcare workers, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and the long-term challenges it has brought to the healthcare profession.

Those interested in entering the medical field should pick a healthcare organization carefully. Given the physician and nurse shortages, they will likely have their pick among a few different offers. Choose an employer that offers excellent mental health services as well as, if possible, a reasonable schedule that allows nurses to work as much as they would like while still living a balanced life outside of work.

The shortage of physicians and nurses will likely become the most serious challenge the healthcare industry faces. Those interested in joining the healthcare industry and making a difference in hundreds of lives should dig into degree programs and get started!

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