Understanding the Complexities of the Healthcare Workforce: Beyond Just Numbers


Zara Nwosu
February 14, 2024
The Healthcare Workforce: A Multifaceted Issue
The healthcare workforce is currently the subject of conflicting narratives, with CEOs identifying it as a chief concern and researchers underscoring the rapidly growing healthcare labor supply, which is now at levels beyond those seen pre-pandemic. However, this topic is not as straightforward as it may seem. It necessitates a deeper examination of five key aspects: demand, experience, location, condition, and turnover. These considerations underscore the intricacy of the healthcare workforce, emphasizing the need to have the right individuals, in the correct locations, with appropriate experience and in a condition to deliver high-quality care.
Numbers Vs. Quality
Having a large workforce is not the same as having the right people in the right places. This is particularly true for the healthcare sector where quality of service is of paramount importance. As Dr. Katherine Meese, a scholar in the field of organizational behavior and well-being, points out, having the right set of individuals possessing the appropriate skillset is crucial in providing high-quality care.
The Nursing Shortage Dilemma
Despite the overall growth in healthcare labor supply, specific areas like nursing are facing severe shortages. By 2025, it is expected that there will be a shortfall of 200,000 to 450,000 registered nurses for direct patient care in the United States. The severity of these shortages varies by state, with some even projected to have a surplus. Factors such as the increased demand due to an aging population, a dearth of nursing education faculty, and escalating stress and burnout levels are exacerbating this issue.