The healthcare industry is starting to feel the effects of the Affordable Care Act with the surge of newly-insured patients this year. As we predicted last summer, the spike in patient population size is overwhelming facilities, leading to a shortage in healthcare professionals—specifically, physicians. And due to the uncertainty as to how long this imbalance of supply and demand will last, healthcare organizations are now finding creative ways to address these shortages.
To help ease the demand on their current full-time physicians and give patients the attention they deserve, many employers are turning their staffing efforts to hiring nurse practitioners and locum tenens physicians. As a result, registered nurses may want to consider going back to school to become credentialed for a nurse practitioner position, while physicians looking for a change of pace should consider shorter-term assignments with the geographical freedom of locum tenens work.
Nurse Practitioners (NPs)
The duties of nurse practitioners vary and that’s exactly what makes them the perfect professionals to assist in the physician shortage. They perform a wide range of duties, from performing general check-ups to diagnosing patients to deciding on proper treatments, and in some cases, can take their own patients to lessen a physician’s load. They also have the autonomy to specialize in a number of areas, such as primary care, pediatric care, geriatric care, oncology, and psychiatric care. As a result, there can be a clear path to becoming a nurse practitioner from just about any healthcare profession.
The credentials required to become a nurse practitioner, as well as the types of duties they can legally perform, vary by state. For example, in New York State, a nurse practitioner can only prescribe medications when there is a certain degree of physician involvement. In others, they can prescribe medications without any assistance.
In order to transition into the position of a nurse practitioner from, say, a Registered Nurse, candidates must acquire a master’s degree and hone in on one of the above specialties. More information on the requirements of a nurse practitioner can be found on Explorehealthcareers.org. To search for nurse practitioner opportunities, see our open positions here.
Locum Tenens (LTs)
For those who are already credentialed physicians, it may be a good idea to take advantage of the increase in demand for locum tenens physicians. As we said above, as the demand for physicians increases, healthcare organizations are reassessing their hiring strategies and are looking for more cost-effective solutions to manage patient loads. Therefore, hiring locum tenens is an excellent way for them to cut back on staffing when need decreases, but add more hands on deck when they are feeling a shortage.