Solving The Global Healthcare Providers Shortage

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The world is currently grappling with a severe shortage of healthcare workers, and the United States finds itself at the epicenter of this crisis. While there is a pressing need for more healthcare providers, it isn’t due to a lack of qualified candidates. Over the past three years, only 66.7% of allopathic medical school applicants with a GPA of 3.79 or higher, and an MCAT between 510 and 513, were accepted. It is a similar story for nursing applicants, with more than 10,000 qualified applicants being rejected each year, partly due to insufficient clinical placement sites, classroom space, and budget cuts.

The demand for more healthcare workers is universal, and addressing the global shortage is an intricate challenge. As a result of the low acceptance rates, many would-be candidates are turning to alternative paths, including foreign medical schools and nursing programs. Others are switching their career path from pursuing an MD or DO degree to physician assistant programs.

The Global Healthcare Shortage: A Common Challenge

Several common factors contribute to the global healthcare crisis, including aging populations in many countries, which drive the demand for healthcare services. Rising numbers of chronic illnesses and complex healthcare needs further intensify the need for a robust healthcare workforce.

The long and expensive training required to become a healthcare provider is deterring many people from entering the profession. Registered nurses can spend up to four years earning their degree while physicians will spend four years in undergraduate, plus another four years in medical school. Then, depending on their specialty, physicians might spend anywhere from 3-9 additional years in residency programs. Physician assistants typically spend four years in undergraduate and another three years to earn their graduate degree. Additionally, many healthcare providers are leaving the workforce due to burnout and dissatisfaction with working conditions, leading to higher retirement numbers than new entrants joining the field.

The U.S. Healthcare Shortage

The United States, renowned for having one of the world’s most advanced healthcare systems, is not exempt from this global problem. In fact, the healthcare provider shortage is more pronounced here and has serious implications for patient care and the healthcare system.

The Association of the American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a shortage of anywhere between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians in the U.S. by 2034. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend, placing immense pressure on healthcare systems. Additionally, more than two of every five practitioners will be 65 or older within the next ten years.

Alternative Paths To Healthcare

Despite these shortages, it’s hard for some aspiring physicians to gain entry into a medical school, with only 43.7% of the 52,577 applicants matriculating into medical school in 2023-2024. Because of this, qualified applicants might turn towards physician assistant school or a nursing program to work in healthcare. According to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), more than 43.5% of applicants to PA school indicated that they applied to or seriously considered another healthcare profession. Of those applicants, 67.9% indicated that one of the reasons why they selected PA over other careers was because the length of PA education was shorter.

According to new data released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the number of students in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs decreased by 1.4% last year, ending a 20-year period of enrollment growth in programs designed to prepare new registered nurses (RNs). With declines also recorded in master’s (-9.4%) and Ph.D. (-4.1%) programs, collective action must be taken to strengthen pathways into nursing to ensure the nation’s healthcare needs are met.

Interestingly, we are seeing a disparity in the types of schools male and female applicants are applying to, with males being more likely to apply to medical school and physician assistant programs over nursing programs. In 2022, males made up 21.4% of matriculants in physician assistant programs and less than 15% of the student population in nursing programs.

The Role Of International Schools

International nursing schools, particularly in Southeast Asia, are emerging as a solution to addressing the nursing shortage. The Philippines, in particular, stands out as a significant contributor to this global narrative. The Philippines is the major source country, accounting for more than 30% of U.S. foreign-educated nurses.

Many of these nurses, educated in the Philippines, embark on international careers, frequently finding opportunities in the United States. About 8% of U.S. registered nurses (RNs), or around 300,000, are estimated to be foreign-educated, with about 80% coming from lower-income countries.

Foreign medical schools also play a crucial role, with more than 1,000 graduates from Caribbean medical schools, like St. George’s University, matching into residency programs in 2023. According to AAMC, roughly 1 in 5 active physicians in the U.S. were born and attended medical school outside the United States or Canada. Interest in international candidates is also growing, with more than 58% of international applications matching into residency training programs. International physicians also tend to match into primary care, with more than 70% obtaining positions in internal medicine, family medicine, or pediatrics. Another bonus is that non-U.S. IMGs are more likely to serve in lower-income, underserved, or rural communities, helping to reduce the shortage of providers in these areas.

The Digital Transformation Of Nursing Education

One innovative solution to addressing this nursing shortage is the digital transformation of nursing education. For instance, digital platforms have played a vital role in enabling nursing education, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia. These platforms empower aspiring nurses to overcome barriers that have historically hindered the expansion of the nursing workforce.

The role of these digital education platforms is to facilitate accessible nursing education, ensuring that students can learn at their own pace and convenience. This accessibility transcends geographical and financial barriers, making quality education, in line with the standards of countries like the U.S. and the U.K., accessible to a broader audience.

These platforms offer high-quality educational content developed by experts in the field. This ensures that nursing graduates are well-prepared, with the skills and knowledge necessary for patient care.

A company leading this international effort is Concise Nursing, an online education software company, founded by Dr. Uri Rozen, MD.

Dr. Rozen says, “Recognizing the huge U.S. need for overseas nurses, Concise Nursing is making nursing education more accessible and affordable for nurses worldwide, starting with the Philippines, with the goal of increasing the number of Filipino nurses relocating to the U.S. from 10,000 to 50,000 annually. The Philippines is only the beginning, as we have recognized a market size of six million aspiring nurses around the world that are waiting to be enabled on their long training and relocation journey.”

Dr. Rozen credits Concise Nursing’s success to providing an individualized digital learning environment with a tailored approach for every student based on their specific areas for improvement. The incorporation of the digital platform has resulted in an average increase of 30% in nursing school passing rates, thereby relieving the manual burden for each level coordinator and clinical instructor, who previously had to spend about eight hours every week manually writing, publishing, and monitoring quizzes.

The Global Collaboration

In an increasingly interconnected world, the global healthcare shortage necessitates global solutions. Addressing this issue is not just the responsibility of individual countries; it requires coordinated efforts from healthcare providers, educators, and institutions worldwide. It will require innovative solutions, and international schools are taking a central part in this endeavor. There’s hope for a future in which the demand for healthcare services can be met, and patients can receive the care they deserve.

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