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A Review of Demographic and Infrastructural Factors and Potential Solutions to the Physician and Nursing Shortage Predicted to Impact the Growing US Elderly Population

Cohen, Steven A. DrPH, MPH

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: July/August 2009 - Volume 15 - Issue 4 - p 352–362
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31819d817d
Special Article

This review highlights several of the key demographic, infrastructural, and cultural factors associated with the predicted labor force shortage in the healthcare field. Population dynamics play a significant role in exacerbating the healthcare labor force shortage. These factors work to simultaneously increase the size and proportion of the population needing the most care, namely, the elderly, and also to reduce the availability of physicians and nurses to provide adequate care for the growing elderly population. Physicians and nurses have expressed consistent dissatisfaction with healthcare infrastructure and have cited decreased job satisfaction, further exacerbating the shortage. Potential solutions to the shortage, aside from dramatic changes to the healthcare system, include increased medical and nursing training in geriatrics and gerontology to increase interest, competency, and knowledge of health issues specifically pertaining to the elderly. Other solutions include monetary incentives for geriatric training for nurses and physicians. Any specific measures to remedy this growing problem should be implemented in a timely manner to reduce this critical shortage of healthcare workers that will only continue to grow in the coming decades.

This review discusses several of the key demographic, infrastructural, and cultural factors associated with the predicted labor force shortage in the healthcare field.

Steven A. Cohen, DrPH, MPH, is Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.

Corresponding Author: Steven A. Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111 (steven_a.cohen@tufts.edu).

The author thanks Dr Linda Burton of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for her inspiration and support and Julia Wenger of Tufts University School of Medicine for her timely assistance with this review.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.