US News and World Report released its 2015 list of the 100 best jobs in the US and just like in 2013, dentists have come out on top. It’s not surprising since there continues to be strong demand for dentists, salaries are high, and current dentists report high job satisfaction. What’s new this year is that other health care providers have joined dentists at the top of the list.
All seven health care jobs have similar rankings and unemployment rates with differences in levels of demand and salary possibilities. Click here to learn more about the methodology US News used.
(In case you are curious, the other three jobs in the top 10 are software developer, computer systems analyst, and information security analyst. See the rest of the top 100 here.)
The high demand numbers and low unemployment rates for these jobs are not news to anyone who has been paying attention to the healthcare industry recently. In fact, the Health Resources and Services Administration within the US Department of Health and Human Services predicts a shortage of 20,400 primary care physicians by 2020, if the system for delivering primary care stays the way it is, in their 2013 report Projecting Supply and Demand for Primary Care Practitioners through 2020. According to their estimates, even with nurse practitioners and physician assistants integrated into the delivery system, the national shortages will become less acute although supply and demand will vary regionally.
Publicity like the US News list and other media coverage of the employment outlook in healthcare highlights the good news and bad news for insurers, employers, and consumers:
- As more people enter these fields, everyone will benefit from more choice in providers in the long run.
- According to the American Dental Association 2010 Survey of Dental Practice, solo practitioners make up about 59% of all dental practices. While this number has declined from a high of 67% in 1991 according to a study in the Journal of Dental Education in August 2012, dentists and dental hygienists are still likely to start or join private practices which will increase the number of access points in dental networks.
- Physicians, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physical therapists tend to join large practices or work in hospitals or other facilities because medical practices are more likely to be set up as corporations for tax and liability protection. Therefore, fewer access points will be added to medical networks but there will be more providers at many locations.
- Start-up costs are high and training timelines are long so we will likely experience shortages on the way to more choice. Nurse practitioner training tuition costs range from $22,500 to $45,000 depending on the program and takes between 12 and 18 months. Physician assistant training is approximately twice the cost and twice the time. The cost of nurse practitioner and physician assistant training is comparable but the time commitment is just a fraction compared to the cost and timing of physician training: $35,000 to $55,000 depending on the school and four years plus three to seven more for residency at a minimum. Other considerations are the number of seats in nursing and medical training programs and the number of qualified applicants.
In general, supply and demand for healthcare providers are not in sync. It’s clear the US population will continue to age and grow. How are you addressing these needs in your network development plans?