The U.S. population is aging, and the oldest baby boomers will soon be eligible for Social Security. Changing demographics are affecting healthcare. Not only are patients getting older, but the work force is also graying. In the next few years, the healthcare industry will experience a wave of retirements. And this will create shortages in many areas.

Doctors, Nurses, Physician Assistants

In fact, says Laura Beeth, system director of talent management for Fairview Health Services, Minnesota is already facing a shortage of physicians, particularly in rural areas of the state. "Physicians are needed in every specialty, including family practice, internal medicine, psychiatry and surgery," she says.

Physician assistants are also in demand, especially in family practice, orthopedic and general surgery and urgent care. And the need for advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners, will continue to grow.

Retirements have begun to reduce the number of nurses in crucial specialties such as labor and delivery, surgery, intensive and emergency care. Research and teaching hospitals also will need nurses in highly specialized areas. "This is a great opportunity for nurses to move from general medical-surgical nursing into high demand specialties," Beeth says.

Pharmacists, Lab Professionals, Physical Therapists

According to Beeth, who represents the state's healthcare employers on the Governor's Workforce Development Council, Minnesota is also experiencing a shortage of pharmacists in all areas: hospital, retail and clinical. "Within the Fairview system, we currently have openings in these critical areas," she says.

In addition, employers are finding it tough to hire clinical laboratory scientists and physical therapists. Clinical laboratory scientists, also known as medical technologists, perform the tests that shape medical decisions. Physical therapists are needed to work with older patients in acute, rehabilitation and orthopedic settings.

Entry-Level Jobs

Want to try out healthcare before committing to years of schooling? If so, then consider training as a medical or nursing assistant, a phlebotomist or a health unit coordinator. "We always have openings in these areas," Beeth says. "These are great jobs that let you get your feet wet. And if you decide to continue your education, you can take advantage of your employer's education benefits."


Nancy Giguere is a freelance writer from St. Paul who has written about healthcare since 1995.