The onslaught on the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a heavy burden on America’s healthcare workers. For over a year, medical professionals on the frontlines opted to jeopardize their own health and safety in order to provide care for patients battling the virus. 

For the healthcare industry’s older workers, that risk was even higher. Now, many workers in the medical space are electing to close their practices, retire early or alter the way they work in response to the pandemic. 

A look at the Current Physician Shortage

Over the next decade, The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians. Similarly, research from the American Nurses Association (ANA) reveals a forthcoming need for approximately 3.44 million nurses by 2022 – a 20.2% increase in RNs with an additional demand for 1.13 million nurses. As the ANA closely monitors the growing nursing shortage across the nation, they also expect vacancies to increase by more than half a million by 2026. 

AAMC’s Chief Healthcare Officer, Janis Orlowski, MD, said the demand will be a result of the following

“The majority of that comes from the idea that the U.S. population is growing and you need so many doctors per 10,000 people.” In addition, “the U.S. population is aging and as people get older than 65, they utilize more doctors.”

The Pandemic’s Impact on Early Retirements

Healthcare professionals are opting to leave their jobs or retire early in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Findings procured from a Medscape survey showed one-fourth of physicians in the U.S. are considering early retirement due to the pandemic. 

For some, the choice is a result of fears surrounding health due to a medical condition or their age – which puts them at a higher risk. Many doctors and nurses stopped practicing at the height of the outbreak and have simply decided not to return to work. For others, the decision to retire early can be attributed to burnout and the immense physical and psychological toll they experienced due to the pandemic. 

Financial pressures serve as another contributing factor. 87% of doctors said they’re worried about financial health due to the pandemic, according to the California Medical Association (CMA). On average, revenues have decreased by a third, with 25% of respondents experiencing a 50% reduction in revenue. 

The burden is further exacerbated by the need for healthcare professionals to acquire a large supply of personal protective equipment, implement new telemedicine technology and adopt new safety protocols. Shouldering these needs has resulted in a 14% increase in costs, on average. Because of this, many healthcare professionals have been forced to consolidate their practices with larger medical groups or close their doors for good.

While there was already a growing shortage of healthcare professionals pre-Covid, the pandemic has only proven to increase staffing shortages. At Polaris, we’re helping hospitals and healthcare facilities bridge staffing gaps due to the coronavirus. To learn more about how we can help your organization, contact us today.