Solving The Global Healthcare Providers Shortage

By Brandie Erickson December 20, 2023 Medical School Admissions Consulting Press

The world is currently grappling with a severe shortage of healthcare workers, and the United States finds itself at the epicenter of this crisis. While there is a pressing need for more healthcare providers, it isn’t due to a lack of qualified candidates. Over the past three years, only 66.7% of allopathic medical school applicants with a GPA of 3.79 or higher, and an MCAT between 510 and 513, were accepted. It is a similar story for nursing applicants, with more than 10,000 qualified applicants being rejected each year, partly due to insufficient clinical placement sites, classroom space, and budget cuts. 

The demand for more healthcare workers is universal, and addressing the global shortage is an intricate challenge. As a result of the low acceptance rates, many would-be candidates are turning to alternative paths, including foreign medical schools and nursing programs. Others are switching their career path from pursuing an MD or DO degree to physician assistant programs.


The Global Healthcare Shortage: A Common Challenge

Several common factors contribute to the global healthcare crisis, including aging populations in many countries, which drive the demand for healthcare services. Rising numbers of chronic illnesses and complex healthcare needs further intensify the need for a robust healthcare workforce.

The long and expensive training required to become a healthcare provider is deterring many people from entering the profession. Registered nurses can spend up to four years earning their degree while physicians will spend four years in undergraduate, plus another four years in medical school. Then, depending on their specialty, physicians might spend anywhere from 3-9 additional years in residency programs. Physician assistants typically spend four years in undergraduate and another three years to earn their graduate degree. Additionally, many healthcare providers are leaving the workforce due to burnout and dissatisfaction with working conditions, leading to higher retirement numbers than new entrants joining the field.


The U.S. Healthcare Shortage

The United States, renowned for having one of the world’s most advanced healthcare systems, is not exempt from this global problem. In fact, the healthcare provider shortage is more pronounced here and has serious implications for patient care and the healthcare system.

The Association of the American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a shortage of anywhere between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians in the U.S. by 2034. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend, placing immense pressure on healthcare systems. Additionally, more than two of every five practitioners will be 65 or older within the next ten years. 


Alternative Paths To Healthcare

Despite these shortages, it’s hard for some aspiring physicians to gain entry into a medical school, with only 43.7% of the 52,577 applicants matriculating into medical school in 2023-2024. Because of this, qualified applicants might turn towards physician assistant school or a nursing program to work in healthcare. According to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), more than 43.5% of applicants to PA school indicated that they applied to or seriously considered another healthcare profession. Of those applicants, 67.9% indicated that one of the reasons why they selected PA over other careers was because the length of PA education was shorter. 

According to new data released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the number of students in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs decreased by 1.4% last year, ending a 20-year period of enrollment growth in programs designed to prepare new registered nurses (RNs). With declines also recorded in master’s (-9.4%) and Ph.D. (-4.1%) programs, collective action must be taken to strengthen pathways into nursing to ensure the nation’s healthcare needs are met. 

Interestingly, we are seeing a disparity in the types of schools male and female applicants are applying to, with males being more likely to apply to medical school and physician assistant programs over nursing programs. In 2022, males made up 21.4% of matriculants in physician assistant programs and less than 15% of the student population in nursing programs. 

Read the full article on Forbes here.