Many nurses and physicians are among the baby boomers who will start to retire in the next three to five years. The federal government is predicting that by 2020, nurse and physician retirements will contribute to a shortage of approximately 24,000 doctors and nearly 1 million nurses. While hospital leaders voice much of the concern over possible shortages, the implications extend throughout the labor-intensive, trillion-dollar United States health system. It’s expensive to educate new nurses and doctors. Taxpayer-funded Medicare spends $8 billion a year for residence training of physicians alone.
While the U.S. has more physicians and nurses today than ever before, they are not distributed or deployed efficiently. Shortage projections tend to be built around today’s often dysfunctional system, which makes them problematic. However, while future shortages are certainly worrisome, the bigger issue for health industry leaders today lies in orchestrating care in an increasingly complex and converging healthcare labor market.