Too Few Physicians, Nurses To Implement Presidential Candidates' Health Reform Plans

Armen Hareyan's picture
Advertisement

Plans put forward by the leading 2008 presidential candidates to enhance access to healthcare will prove impractical without more physicians and nurses, a new report contends.

Titled, Physician and Nurse Supply: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle, the newly released report was completed by AMN Healthcare, the largest healthcare staffing company in the United States. The report reviews the healthcare reform proposals of seven leading presidential candidates and evaluates the proposals in the context of physician and nurse supply. According to the report, none of the candidates have yet proposed initiatives to increase physician and nurse supply to meet today's shortages, or to address the increased need for healthcare services that would arise under a reformed system featuring expanded access to care.

"There is a critical connection between access to healthcare and the supply of physicians, nurses and other medical professionals," notes Susan Nowakowski, President and Chief Executive Officer of AMN Healthcare. "The candidates are suggesting positive healthcare reforms, but to be effective, their plans should take into account the need for more doctors and nurses."

Advertisement

The report observes that the United States currently has a shortfall of 120,000 nurses. With the aging of the baby boomer population and an aging nurse workforce, that deficit is projected to be at least 350,000 by 2020, and, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, could reach 1,000,000 nurses by 2020. The report also cites the growing physician shortage, which is projected to reach between 85,000 and 200,000 physicians by 2020. Reforming the current healthcare system to cover some or all America's 47 million uninsured, as proposed by some candidates, would increase demand for healthcare services, exacerbating physician and nurse shortages, the report maintains.

In examining the leading presidential candidates' healthcare reform proposals, the AMN Healthcare report notes that only a few of the candidates are calling for increased nurse training. Moreover, none of the candidates are proposing to produce 110,000 new nurses per year, the number of new nurses researchers say is needed, as explained in the AMN Healthcare report. In addition, none of the candidates have yet discussed plans to address the need for more faculty members at nurse training programs, which the report outlines as key to increasing nurse supply. The report notes that over 30,000 qualified applicants to four-year nursing programs were turned away in 2007 due to lack of faculty and space.

The report also indicates that none of the candidates have proposed to increase the number of physicians trained in the United States. The key to increasing physician supply is creating more residency training slots at the nation's teaching hospitals, the report says, but none of the candidates' reform proposals advocate this step.

"If the goal is to provide broader access to healthcare, it will be essential that the public policy makers also address the availability of a trained clinical workforce required to deliver on the promise," Nowakowski observes. "With or without universal healthcare, increasing physician and nurse supply should be a national priority."

Advertisement