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Vacancy Rate for Doctors and Nurses Soars as Obamacare Looms

More Nurses NeededA survey released by the staffing firm AMN Healthcare last week has revealed high vacancy rates for physicians and nurses at hospitals and clinics nationwide as the date for the full implementation of ACA looms near. The findings are cause for some concern, as the ACA is expected to lead to an increase in the number of insured Americans and thus result in a heavier burden on hospitals and clinics.

The survey found that the vacancy rate for physicians rose to nearly 18 percent this year, significantly higher than the 10 percent vacancy rate reported in 2009.  The high vacancy rate applies to nurses as well. The vacancy rate for nurses in 2013 was 17 percent, which is more than three times higher than it was in 2009, when it stood at 5.5 percent.[1]

The fear is that hospitals will not be adequately staffed to handle the millions of new patients that will be able to afford medical care under Obamacare in 2014. Hospital executives are well aware that the number of patients will increase next year. One would think this would be a welcome development, as an increase in business would lead to an increase in revenue. However, experts predict that in general the type of patients that will obtain coverage under new policies will not prove to be great sources for income for hospitals.

A shortage of qualified candidates might be partly to blame, as hospitals and clinics continue to wage a “war for talent.” Landing top candidates can come at a high cost. With the significant upheaval ushered in by health care reform, hospital executives will be careful not to allow the cost of their workforce to balloon. The Affordable Care Act includes provisions aimed at controlling costs by offering incentives for efficiency and cost-effective care. Despite a shortage of doctors and nurses, hospitals may be reluctant make the financial commitment necessary to attract new hires until after the dust begins to settle. The leaders of health organizations will be cautious to avoid any moves that could plunge their organization into the red.

Add this concern to a whole list of anxieties regarding the rollout of the Affordable Care Act next year.


[1] Japsen, Bruce. “Doctor, Nurse Vacancies Soar Amid Obamacare Rollout.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 08 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

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