If you are an avid follower of the trending topics and buzzing news in the anesthesia sector, you might have come across the discourse around the future of CRNA jobs. Various organizations have been conducting rigorous studies to explore whether the looming shortage of Anesthesiologists in the US is fact or fiction.
Anesthesia is a vitally crucial medical procedure that is done before or after a patient undergoes surgery. Highly skilled professionals perform anesthesia; Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and Anesthesiologists (AN s).
These two groups of professionals provide complementary services that are paramount during surgery. The debate about how various roles should be divided among them has taken precedent for some years.
However, it is being overshadowed by the growing concern of an Anesthesiologist and CRNA shortage in the United States.
Loads of studies that have been conducted, seem to be supporting the claim that the shortage really exists. If true, there are concerns that the predicament might put quality healthcare in jeopardy in the coming years.
We have combed through various studies and publications on the internet to unfold the mystery of how the future of CRNA jobs looks like.
What studies and survey data say about a CRNA shortage
A study conducted by RAND Corporation in 2010 projected that by the year 2020, the US would face a shortage of nearly 4,500 anesthesiologists. Information from the survey also indicated that at the time, there was a shortage of about 1,280 CRNAS and 3,800 anesthesiologists.
This accounts for 3.8% and 9.8% of the total number of professional anesthetists, respectively.
Although a report to confirm whether the predictions came to fruition is yet to be released, the 2019 study by Merritt Hawkins, a recruitment firm, provides some evidence that can be used to back these claims. The firm publishes an annual report to paint a picture of the recruiting trends for physicians and advanced practitioners.
Data from this study indicated that there was an increased interest for specialists by healthcare organizations that were looking to hire new employees. The report showed that the demand for anesthesiologists was so high that it appeared in the top 20 list of the most requested recruitment searches.
Additionally, the April 2019 report by the Association of American Colleges (AAMC) on physician supply also had a similar opinion. Information drawn from the report projected a shortage of physicians by up 122,000 by 2032. Among the group will be a shortage of up to 77,000 medical specialists and up to 55,000 primary care physicians.
Many people might want to question the validity of the claim that there is a CRNA shortage. But, since there are several reports and studies to substantiate the claims, the assumptions may be correct. However, one question everyone may be tempted to ask is; how did this happen when all we do is brag about our ongoing intellectual growth and expansion of services?
Contributing factors to the CRNA shortage
An educated outlook on the shortage of professionals in the anesthesia specialty indicates that there are several contributing factors.
The changing demographics are what is fueling the shortage of CRNAs. According to research, approximately 10,000 individuals turn 65 every day in the US. And as we all know, individuals aged 65 and above utilize medical services more than the rest of the age groups. The growing number of the elderly population, coupled with the prevalence of age-related chronic diseases, is having profound implications on demand for specialized healthcare services.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors in the US account for 34% of inpatient procedures and 37% of symptomatic treatments. This is despite the fact that they represent only 14% of the population. The explosion of the elderly population is thus, attributed to the growing demand for medical services, including surgical procedures that require anesthesia services.
Additionally, the rapid aging of the population means that most physicians will be retiring in a decade. According to the AAMC report mentioned above, one-third of the current physicians will have surpassed the age of 65 in the next ten years. This means that despite the current shortage, more CRNAs will be retiring in the next 5-10 years.
Change in working trends
The quest to reduce weekly working hours for physicians may also contribute to the shortage. A decline in the number of weekly hours among physicians may lead to fewer FTE physicians. And if the downward trend continues, the situation will become worse in the future.
The emergence of more elective procedures
Economic growth has also given patients the option to undergo more elective procedures that require anesthesia services. The rise of hospital outpatient services and the availability of online sites where patients can schedule appointments have also led to an increased need for anesthesia services.
Increased responsibility, poor compensation, and inadequate resources
Since the shortage has already kicked in, there is dual pressure for CRNAs to take more responsibilities while payment continues to be insufficient. This may lead to lower job satisfaction pushing more physicians to retirement.
According to a survey done by the ASA in 2012, up to 90 percent of physicians have experienced a shortage of a single anesthetic medication at one point in a year. When all these challenges pile on, they may force anesthesiologists and CRNAs to quit and change career paths.
The implication of the shortage on future CRNA jobs
With the demand for qualified anesthesiologists and CRNAs continually increasing, the scales may be tipping towards anesthesia job seekers. Healthcare facilities will be looking to hire more specialists to cater for the increasing number of senior citizens needing specialized procedures that warrant the use of anesthesia services. They will also need to replace anesthesiologists who will be retiring in the next few years.
While we may have in-depth studies and reports to back our arguments, our claims about what will happen in the future remain to be educated guesses. However, one thing we are sure of is that the elderly will continue to need surgical services in the foreseeable future. Therefore, you must take time to decipher the claims and assumptions made in this write-up critically before drawing any conclusions.
It will be up to you decide whether the surge in demand or the predicted shortage should spell an opportunity with available CRNA jobs, or a point of concern. If you are considering your career options in this area, this article can provide some valuable insights. For those who are starting out, the current predictions align perfectly with your professional outlook in years to come. And if you are one of those who are about to reach their peak, you can use this piece to evaluate whether there is something you can do to help the situation. More importantly, care should be taken to ensure that the current predicament doesn’t lead to you being overworked.