Healthcare is a driver of California’s economy and represents 12.6% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Employment in the healthcare sector provides jobs for 1.4 million Californians. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment in healthcare nationally is projected to grow 18% between 2016 and 2026, and similar increases are expected in California. In 2017, the California Future Health Workforce Commission was formed to take a close look at whether the State is prepared to meet the growing demand for healthcare workers.
The Commission spent more than a year studying the changing demographics of the State’s population, the anticipated demand for health care services in each region of the state, and the projected supply of healthcare workers. In February 2019, The Commission released a report on their findings. They found a significant mismatch between the size, diversity, and distribution of California’s current healthcare workforce and that of the workforce that will be needed in the future to provide equitable and accessible health care to all Californians.
According to the report, within the next decade California will face a shortfall of 4,100 primary care clinicians and will have only two-thirds of the psychiatrists it needs. The anticipated shortage is not confined to doctors and nurses; the most significant increase in demand in the health workforce will be for frontline workers, such as medical assistants (MAs) and home care workers. Jobs for MAs are expected to increase by close to 30% by 2026 (by approximately 24,800 jobs) and the State faces a dire shortage of home care workers. To keep pace with the health care needs of the State’s aging population, we will need an additional 600,000 homecare workers by 2029.
The Commission’s report includes 27 recommendations for addressing the health workforce shortage. At the very top of their list is the expansion of pipeline programs. The takeaway: We need more programs like Alameda Health System’s HealthPATH program.
Since 2015, HealthPATH has provided internships, volunteer experiences, and other health career exploration activities to over 2,500 under-represented youth and young adults in Alameda County. Programs like ours will ensure that young people are aware of the career opportunities in the healthcare field and have the knowledge and tools to pursue those careers.
In future blog posts, I will be sharing more findings from the California Future Health Workforce Commission, as well as stories of the students who have gone through HealthPATH programs and are on the road to becoming California’s future healthcare professionals.