Pandemic exacerbates already strained supply of healthcare workers


First there was a shortage of PPE and hospital beds during the pandemic, now there is a worrying shortage of healthcare workers.

“We had a shortage of healthcare workers before the pandemic and it’s only gotten worse” said Dr. Eric Toner, senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

There is a shortage among virtually every type of position, but the need for doctors and nurses is greatest.

“It’s happening because the hospitals are so stressed right now and have such a shortage of healthcare workers. They need healthcare workers and they’re trying to find innovative ways to get people to care for the patients,” said Dr. Toner.

That includes a now record demand for traveling nurses, who fill positions in the short term where the need is greatest.

And with workers themselves getting sick because of the pandemic, the supply has been strained as well with workers under pressure to return to work quickly.

“It puts the healthcare workers in a real difficult position,” said Dr. Toner.

The issue has preceded the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to last beyond it, due to the extensive training required to fill many of these jobs.

“It can’t happen quickly. At best, it takes years to get trained as a nurse or a doctor, you know. There’s only so much we can do in a short run.”

In the meantime, some hospitals have even reported doubling wages in the hopes of attracting skilled workers.