PwC Concludes Changes are Needed in Medical Workforce Model

July 9, 2007 ( - New research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) indicates changes need to be made in the training, distribution, and deployment of doctors and nurses to meet the needs of both the American public and the medical workforce.

According to a press release from PwC, its analysis shows a majority of doctors and nurses nearing retirement just as the American public will need them most, health care organizations with a diminishing pipeline of primary care physicians, new competition for nurses, and a generation of young clinicians who have different expectations about work-life balance than their predecessors.

There are serious maldistributions of physicians by specialty and geography, PwC found. Twenty percent of Americans live in areas with a shortage of primary medical care and only 20% of internal medicine residents are now choosing primary care internal medicine, while the rest are pursuing higher-paying subspecialties. In addition, physicians are moving toward hospital employment, the release said.

Within primary care, the roles of physicians and nurses are changing, as PwC found hospitals rely more on nurse practitioners and physicians assistants. Competition for these clinicians is also increasing due to the advent of retail health clinics. By 2009, 1,500 retail clinics staffed by registered nurses are scheduled to be open, the press release said.

Meanwhile, nurses are moving away from hospital employment. Nurse vacancy rates are running between 7% and 10%, and hospitals are now regularly turning to temporary workers and international recruits to fill nursing openings.

Training Improvement

PwC concluded from its research that the quality of clinical training needs improvement, especially for nurses. The number of denied applicants for nursing schools is at its highest level ever, according to PwC, due to a shortage of qualified nursing faculty, financial disincentives to offer nursing education, and a scarcity of clinical training sites.

On the other hand, PwC said a record number of new medical schools are slated to open in the next five to 10 years, which could repair the imbalance of physicians in underserved areas and specialties.

In addition, health care employers need to improve workforce issues, as the medical workforce wants more work/life balance. Work/life balance is now the top influencer of how medical students pick a specialty, and nurses say that culture and schedules are the greatest influences on their job satisfaction, PwC found.

According to the research report, organizations that focus more on work/life balance issues for physicians and nurses will have a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining top talent.

The full report can be found at .