The healthcare industry is predicted to be the largest driver of growth in the US economy.  But this growth is only be sustainable if the supply of talent can keep up with demand.  And that’s a huge challenge.

Experts predict that healthcare staff shortages are set to increase.  For example, by 2025, the US could face a physician shortage ranging between 61,700 and 94,700. If they are to survive, healthcare organizations moving forward have to plan ahead and anticipate their future needs, well in advance.

What is driving talent shortfall?

1. An aging population

The baby boomer generation makes up the majority of doctors and surgeons, and it has hit retirement age.  Replacing baby boomer generation doctors and surgeons with similar skills and experience from more youthful cohorts is a tough ask.

The current medical school system lacks the capacity to produce enough doctors to fill gaps in the time we have available. The level of tacit knowledge contained in the baby boomer generation means a ‘brain drain’ across the industry seems to be inevitable.

To add to the industry’s woes, an aging population doesn’t solely impact the supply of healthcare talent, it also increases demand for services.

Moreover, the large size of the baby boomer population is driving the increased demand. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, it is projected that more than 60% of baby boomers will be managing more than 1 chronic condition and their hospital visits will double by 2030.

Naturally, as the population ages, the need for healthcare services increases. This will only serve to create a greater strain on the workforce, and proportionally increase the need for medical staff.

2. Shortfall in trained nurses

Nurses are a critical part of healthcare and constitute the largest section of the health profession. A diminishing enrolment rate in nursing schools is contributing to the shortfall in nurses. Besides, physical and emotional exhaustion, heavy workload, long hours, and stress are the main reasons why many nurses are struggling to stay in the profession.

3. The impact of COVID-19

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the supply of healthcare staff. Many nurses found better paid positions during the pandemic, leaving behind a void of open vacancies in less paid roles that healthcare staffing providers are struggling to fill without a consistent supply of talent.

The pandemic led to a perfect storm in medical recruitment; a combination of infection risk, physical exhaustion, as well as burnout that have plagued a significant portion of healthcare workers.

Dealing with a healthcare talent shortfall

The obvious solution is for providers to focus on making improvements in their contingent workforce hiring agenda.

Contingent workers are indivicuals who provide independent services to an organization, usually on a temporary basis.

In a gig economy, contingent working is on the rise.  According to a U.S. Government Accountability report, 40% of the U.S. workforce is made up of contingent workers, with the average organization having 18% of their workforce employed on a contingent basis.

Contingent working allows individuals to find work opportunities that fit with their own distinct schedules and lifestyles. It’s an approach to career building favoured by millennials and Gen Z workers. Hiring independent workers on a non-permanent basis enables healthcare staffing suppliers to supplement their staffing numbers and fulfil hiring quotas.

Government Support

There are those that argue that no matter what healthcare providers do, the consequential void of healthcare talent won’t resolve itself without some type of government involvement.

As Joshua Johnston, President of Talent4Health puts it, “If governments want to see their economies continue to grow on the back of the healthcare industry, they have to invest.  You can’t invent a workforce out of thin air.

Faced with an aging global population, demand for healthcare is on a steep upward curve. There’s simply no way our current professional community will cope.  Economies around the world are not creating enough trained medical staff, there aren’t enough programs that incentivize students to enrol in nursing schools. Additionally, organizations need to create a workplace culture, with rewards, and compensation schemes that all workers can benefit from, not just permanent employees.

Ian Tomlin

Ian Tomlin


Ian Tomlin is a marketer, entrepreneur, business leader and management consultant. His passion is to help make great ideas happen. Relentlessly optimistic about the potential of technology for good, Ian’s 30+ year career has focused around the intersect of strategy, technology, and marketing. He writes on subjects including workforce management, future of work, talent acquisition technology and organizational design.
He can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter.