Career Advice > Career Advice

Healthcare Jobs with the Worst Shortages

Healthcare Jobs with the Worst Shortages
Image Credit: via Pexels


The healthcare industry is growing and diversifying. As the population ages, and healthcare evolves in the aftermath of the pandemic, one of the main challenges is filling vacancies. Statistics from the US Bureau of Labor suggest that the healthcare industry will grow by 16% in the next decade. There are substantial shortages across the sector, but some professionals are more highly sought-after than others. In this guide, we’ll highlight the healthcare jobs with the largest shortages over the next decade.


The Largest Healthcare Job Shortages 

The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of up to 48,000 primary care physicians and up to 77,000 non-primary care physicians by 2034, and studies indicate that 1.2 million new nurses will be needed to fix the current nursing shortage by 2030.  The healthcare jobs with the largest shortages over the next decade include:


1. Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses, who have a very high level of training. Statistics from the Bureau of Labor indicate that this field is one of the fastest-growing in the healthcare sector due to the increased demand for nursing care and the shortage of physicians. Nurse practitioners can help to bridge gaps left by shortages in primary and non-primary care physicians.

There are shortages across most areas of nursing, but the shortage of family nurse practitioners is particularly acute. A lack of primary care physicians means that the demand for nurse practitioners is growing. The need for advanced practice nurses is expected to increase by over 30% by 2026 and over 52% by 2031.

To qualify as a nurse practitioner, you must complete postgraduate study and earn your advanced nursing practice license. In around 50% of states, nurse practitioners have full practice authority, which means that they don’t work under doctor supervision.


2. Nurse-Midwives

The World Health Organization estimates that there is currently a global shortage of 900,000 midwives. In the US, midwives attend around 10% of births, but the demand for nurse-midwives is increasing, due to the shortage of physicians. A lack of qualified staff and stretched resources could impact the quality and accessibility of maternal care. Overall employment of nurse midwives, nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists is expected to increase by over 45% by 2030.

Certified nurse-midwives provide comprehensive care for mothers and babies, delivering pre and postnatal care. Days tend to be unpredictable and this is a job that is both challenging and hugely rewarding. Every day, nurse-midwives welcome babies to the world and share incredible experiences with patients and their families. To qualify as a nurse-midwife, you will need to complete additional training after completing your BSN program and passing the registered nursing certification exam. After finishing an approved MSN program, nurse-midwives must pass the certification assessment and then apply to become an advanced practice registered nurse.


3. Respiratory Therapists

A respiratory therapist is a medical professional, who specializes in lung care. Figures published by the American Hospital Association show that there has been an increase of 31% in the number of vacancies for respiratory therapists. This number is set to continue to rise in the next decade.

Respiratory therapists have advanced training in using high-tech equipment to treat patients who have chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including mechanical ventilation machines. This is one of the areas that has suffered most during the pandemic, with the demand for specialist treatment increasing exponentially.

Respiratory therapists work alongside care teams comprising nurses and doctors and they work in a range of settings. The demand for this profession is expected to increase in the next decade as Covid-19 continues to impact health services and patients require assistance for symptoms of long Covid.


4. Healthcare Educators

The shortage of healthcare educators will exacerbate existing healthcare shortages in the years to come. There has been a sharp increase in the number of people taking an interest in healthcare careers in the last two years, but there are not enough qualified teachers and educators to provide the necessary training for tomorrow’s doctors and nurses. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing revealed that around 60% of schools had already rejected qualified applicants because they didn’t have enough educators to respond to the demand.

Healthcare educators play a critical role in teaching and mentoring trainees at all levels, including advanced practice. The shortage of educators is particularly worrying, as the demand for high-level jobs, such as nurse practitioners, increases. If the demand far outweighs the supply, gaps are expected to grow in the next ten years.


5. Home Health Aides

Home health aides provide assistance and support for the elderly, as well as people who have disabilities or chronic illnesses that impact their ability to enjoy independence. It is common for home health aides to visit service users in their own homes, and often, they play a crucial role in enabling people to stay in their own home for as long as possible. By 2025, the shortage of home health aides in the US is expected to reach over 446,000, according to research conducted by Mercer.

As the population ages, the demand for home care services and help at home will rise, increasing the number of vacancies for home health aides. Statistics from the Bureau of Labor show that growth rates in this field will hit over 30% in the next decade.

Home health and personal care aides provide a wide range of services for people who are not able to live independently at home. Typical duties include helping with washing and dressing, preparing meals and assisting with getting into and out of bed.


6. Neurologists

Current estimates indicate that the US needs 11% more neurologists to cater to patient demand. However, this figure is set to reach 19% by 2025. Although the number of neurologists working in the US has increased, the demand is rising at a much faster rate than the supply, which is causing a gap to form. Average waiting times to see a doctor are increasing, according to the American Academy of Neurology.  One significant driving factor is the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, which was predicted to triple between 2013 and 2050.

Neurologists train for several years, which is one of the main reasons why the demand is outpacing the supply. It takes a long time to study and complete advanced training, meaning there is no quick fix. Neurologists usually complete a 4-year degree program followed by an internship and one or two years of additional training.


Image: Anna Shvets@Pexels


7. Nursing Assistants

There are more than 1.5 million nursing assistants in the US, but studies suggest that there are hundreds of unfilled vacancies. The number of nurses required to meet patient demand is projected to increase by over 9% by 2029.

The shortage of nursing assistants has become more alarming due to the pandemic and the aging population. Nursing assistants play a critical support role for advanced practice nurses and doctors, carrying out a wide range of jobs in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Without teams of nursing assistants, pressure on other professionals grows, which means that they have less time available to care for patients. 


8.  Psychiatrists

Psychiatry is a field of medicine, which is dedicated to the diagnosis, management and treatment of mental health disorders. Figures from the US Department of Health and Human Services suggest that the current shortage of 6% of psychiatrists could increase to 12% by 2025.

There are two main issues that contribute to shortages in this specific area of medicine. Firstly, the demand for services is increasing quickly. Secondly, it’s difficult to recruit and retain doctors. There are high rates of stress and burnout, many doctors are approaching retirement age, and this area of medicine is not as well paid as others. As the demand soars, the number of physicians required skyrockets, and the gap widens.  Over 50% of US counties don’t have access to a psychiatrist, according to a report by the Steinberg Institute.


9. Medical & Laboratory Technicians

Many of us automatically think about doctors and nurses when discussing healthcare shortages, but issues are far-ranging. Behind the scenes, medical and laboratory technicians have a vital role to play. Teams deliver around 13 billion lab tests every year in the US alone. Recent statistics show that there is a shortage of up to 25,000 technicians, with some areas experiencing a vacancy rate of up to 25%.

Shortages of lab technicians impact patients and other healthcare professionals. Doctors across all fields rely on technicians and lab staff to analyze samples and provide test results to inform decision-making, make diagnoses and draw up treatment plans. Without efficient services in place, patients have to wait longer.


10. Primary Care Physicians

The Association of American Medical Colleges suggests that there will be a shortfall of between 1,800 and 48,000 primary care physicians in the US by 2034. Primary care physicians are often the first point of contact for patients who become unwell or notice abnormal symptoms. If there are issues accessing primary care, there could be delays in getting treatment, which impacts outcomes.

Primary care physicians undertake a wide range of jobs, which include diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries, offering advice, prescribing medication and referring patients for further tests and investigations.  The number of physicians working in the US is increasing, but the population is growing at a faster rate.


11. Physical Therapists

In 2019, the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) predicted that 27,000 more physical therapists would be needed to meet the growing demand for services by 2025. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that a growth rate of 21% in this field means that up to 49,000 more physical therapists will be needed by 2030.

The shortage of physical therapists is particularly noticeable in rural parts, with most practitioners based in major cities.  Physical therapists provide target care and exercises to improve and restore movement and mobility and enhance function in patients who are affected by underlying illnesses, a disability or an injury.


Image: ElvisClth@Pexels


Why Are There Healthcare Shortages?

There are several possible reasons why there are healthcare shortages. Two key factors include:

  • An Aging Population

The global population is aging, which means that the demand for care is increasing, particularly in areas, such as home care. As the demand for healthcare rises, it is more difficult to train and recruit healthcare workers and professionals at the required speed. In many cases, the demand is rising at a much more rapid rate than the supply. It takes several years for doctors to qualify and nurses to complete advanced practice training and certification, for example.

  • Post-Pandemic Burnout

The Covid-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for healthcare workers across the globe. For months on end, teams worked incredibly long hours under intense pressure and stress. The working environment changed very quickly, and healthcare workers had to adapt to new ways of working and treating patients. They also had to deal with the emotional impact of losing patients to Covid, many of whom were unable to have their friends and families with them at the end. Few people were able to take breaks to rest and recover. Between 2020 and 2021, around 1 in 5 healthcare workers left the profession, and a new study suggests that up to 47% of workers could quit before 2025 (source). Before the pandemic, burnout affected 30%-50% of healthcare workers. This figure has risen to 40%-70% (source).


Final Summary Relating to Shortages

There is a global shortage of healthcare workers. Many countries are experiencing difficulties filling vacancies at a time when the demand for healthcare is rising. In some fields, shortages are particularly worrying and the gap between supply and demand is increasing. Examples of healthcare jobs with the largest shortages include nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, home health aides and nursing assistants, nurse-midwives, neurologists, physical therapists, primary care physicians, health educators, respiratory therapists, and medical and lab technicians.