With all the focus on the new Health Care Reform Bill, attention is lost on the careers available in North Carolina health care system.
Health care is the largest and the fastest-growing industry in the United States. The health care industry employs more than 10 million caregivers in over 200 professional careers. But even with those numbers there is an already growing crisis across the nation. Health care employment growth between the years 2000-2010 was projected to be 25.5 percent but current and projected shortages in the health care workforce show that these projections are not being met.
A recent study by the American Hospital Association pointed to the current vacancy rates nationally which show a 15.3 percent for imaging technicians, 13 percent for registered nurses, and 12.7 percent for pharmacists. What has caused this shortage in nursing? It is attributed to the latest explosion of technology, an ageing health care workforce, and an unprecedented ageing population.
North Carolina fits right into the national profile. According to North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) North Carolina’s nursing shortage is a situation that is heading toward critical as the state’s population ages. NC AHEC works with the NC Center for Nursing and the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at UNC-Chapel Hill to conduct ongoing studies that monitor the quantity and skill level of nurses needed in North Carolina.
AHEC’s studies show that North Carolina’s elderly population will double by 2020, creating huge demands for both highly skilled nurses and nursing assistants. Concurrently, the average age of the NC nurse is rising, with 24 percent of the workforce expected to retire within 10 years.
Another contributing factor to the severe nursing shortage in NC is a dwindling number of schools offering the training. As the economy shrank and budget cuts came many public colleges have had to reduce their funding for training for nursing jobs. Even though health care skills are in major demand right now it is also one of the most expensive to teach. This has caused many state colleges to severely cut or totally eliminate their programs.
This puts North Carolina in a real life Catch 22 situation. There is already a shortage, but now there are fewer seats available for training. Many community colleges that still offer the courses now have more applicants than classroom space.
Though we talked mostly about nursing in this article North Carolina needs everything from Ambulance Drivers through Surgical Technologist so the shortage extends beyond just nursing. And there is no doubt that the problem is much larger than North Carolina. We are at the bottom of a 10 year bell curve as the baby boomers move into retirement. If we have a shortage now where are we going to be in five years? Companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) are stepping up to help meet those needs.
In June 2012 BCBSNC awarded the North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Department of Nursing a $100,000 gift. Other gifts have been awarded to Appalachian State University, Campbell University and Elon University all as part of BCBSNC’s commitment to health care in North Carolina.