Inside Healthcare Staffing Trends

June 9, 2021

The pandemic without a doubt has been partially responsible for driving the surge for temporary medical staffing. As frontline healthcare workers treated an influx of COVID-infected patients and became ill themselves or had to quarantine, physicians and nurses were in high demand. According to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), the U.S. temporary staffing market grew an estimated 8% last year to $19.9 billion and is projected to grow 7% to $21.3 billion this year. For 2022, SIA has the industry generating revenues of $19.8 billion.

The anticipated decline in growth for 2022 is due in part to less COVID care. “The January peak in COVID, followed by lingering COVID cases, combined with a recovery in non-COVID care, has fueled demand for healthcare staffing in the first half of 2021,” the SIA report states. “We anticipate a market decline in 2022, with less volume from COVID care (and fewer crisis wages), and with most non-COVID care expected to have already recovered by then.”

The travel nursing staffing segment is expected to see a dip in market growth as fewer nurses will be needed to treat COVID patients. Per-diem nurse care is also expected to see less growth. It’s important to note, however, that nurse staffing remains challenging and is still in demand. The average unemployment rate in 2020 for registered nurses was 2.4% compared to a national unemployment rate of 7.8%. 

Locum tenens (temporary physicians) and allied health segments, on the other hand, experienced an uptick in growth this year and will continue to do so in 2022. Several factors are driving the growth in locum tenens, according to staffing solutions company AMN Healthcare, including the inadequate number of physicians, rising service demand, and changing reimbursement structures tied to patient satisfaction and other value-based measurements. Locum tenens physicians are experienced doctors who can step in and provide care when there are vacancies. Additionally, according to a recent Global Healthcare Staffing report, the growth in the locum tenens segment is a result of the cost reduction offered by temporary employees and the growing preference among physicians to work as locum tenens.

The allied health segment, which is comprised of clinical healthcare workers who may practice independently or work as part of a team providing evaluation and assessment of patient needs under the direction of a more experienced professional, experienced 5% growth in 2021 and is expected to grow by 4% in 2022, according to SIA. The growth in the allied health field is due in part to a growing demand for healthcare workers to help address the needs of an aging “Baby Boomer” population. 

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