California's shortage of nurses and medical technicians is growing worse by the day.
Nor is it a temporary situation created by the wartime call up of medical personnel who serve as reservists.
"The war effort has nothing to do with the critical shortages in the medical industry," insists Jan Emerson, vice president of external affairs with the California Healthcare Association. The need for registered nurses, for example, predated 9/11.
The ongoing reality is that California has the second-worst medical personnel shortage in the nation. One-in-five hospital staff jobs are going unfilled.
Shortage of RNs, Others
The nurse shortage is threatening to be the worst in the history of the profession, with a recent industry report predicting there will be a shortage of 25,000 nurses in California by 2006. The report adds that unless drastic steps to increase recruitment are taken, California will be headed for a public health crisis.
That means unparalleled demand for RNs and other healthcare professionals for years to come. The list includes pharmacists, radiology technicians, and both physical and respiratory therapists.
Breath of Employment
In fact, respiratory or inhalation therapists enjoy one of the most favorable employment outlooks in California, according to the Department of Labor. An aging population, an increase in lung damage because of air-borne pollutants and smoking, and the development of new drugs and delivery systems to help treat lung disease are creating ongoing demand for these specialists.
In addition, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) prefer using respiratory therapists when possible since their salaries are typically lower than RNs or doctors.
Respiratory therapists must be certified. There are two exams a prospective therapist may take and both require completion of an American Medical Association ap-proved one or two-year program offered at many community colleges.
Doctors in Demand, Too
The California shortage extends to physicians as well.
"Medical specialist groups are having a hard time recruiting physicians to work in California for several reasons," says Bob Achermann, executive director of the California Radiological Association.
"One of the main reasons is the low cost of health and managed care premiums, resulting in lower compensation to the doctors and hospitals. Then there is the high cost of living which is a definite deterrent for a young physician."
He says most specialists can go elsewhere and earn a better living than in California. For example, a physician working in Georgia would be paid better and could afford a mansion.
"The shortage of specialists has been going on apart from the recent call up of some medical reservists," Achermann contends. "This shortage comes down to the hassle factor of managed care and physicians' frustration of dealing with it. Many specialists' groups say they are filling the slots by bringing back retired physicians on a part-time basis."
The California Medical Association concurs.
"We think there is an impeding shortage of physicians illustrated by the months patients have to wait to get an appointment with their doctor," says spokeswoman Heather Campbell. "Many doctors are unhappy working with the red tape of healthcare management organizations and, according to a survey we conducted of 19,000 physicians, 25 percent said they planned to retire or leave the state in the next five years."
According to the survey, more than a third of physicians would choose not to practice in California. More than 25 percent of physicians have had difficulty recruiting doctors to their practices.
"Many physicians no doubt are sticking with the profession because their original motivation remains the desire to care for patients," states CMA chief executive officer Jack Lewin, M.D. "This professional ethic may be overwhelmed, however, if negative financial trends and managed care's chip-ping away at the doctor-patient relationship does not stop."
In addition, citing the high cost of medical schools and gigantic student loans, medical students in residency told the CMA they planned to practice in another state.
Campbell reports the CMA is working on legislation to try to give physicians more power in negotiations with HMOs about medications and reimbursement rates. Their argument? California has some of the most poorly paid physicians in the nation - 30 percent less on average than doctors in the Northeast.
"I guess the saddest discovery is they [physicians] are advising their children not to become doctors," Campbell concludes.
Here are some helpful medical websites:
Calhealth.org - California Healthcare Association
Calrad.org - California Radiological Association
Cmanet.org - California Medical Association
Healthcare.monster.com - Monster.com's medical job search engine.
MedCareers.com - Employment resource for the healthcare industry.
HealthcareSource.com - Website provides job searches, career information and resources, and links to professional associations, licensure and schools and universities.
MedBulletin.com - Job search and career resources and links.
HospitalJobsOnline.com - Job search and career resources and links.
HealthcareJobs.org - Healthcare career information and resources and job listings.
HealthcareJobStore.com - Job search engine and resources.
AlliedHealthJobs.com - Job search engine for healthcare industry.
hcJobsOnline.com - Job search engine for healthcare industry.
Medzilla.com - Job search engine for healthcare and science.
HealthCareerWeb.com - Job search engine for healthcare industry.