The Affordable Care Act is just beginning to become reality, and already, the effects on the health-care industry have been profound.
As Obamacare makes insured medical care accessible to millions more Americans, a nascent shortage of doctors -- and a worsening scarcity of nurses -- is permeating the entire health delivery system. Add in a dearth of professors qualified to teach nursing school courses, and you've got a demand for jobs that should be a real boon to anyone looking for a well-paid career in the health-care field.
Who will care for the newly insured?
As millions more enter the health-care system under Obamacare, the nationwide physician shortage of approximately 20,000 is slated to get much worse. Other factors putting pressure on the number of practicing doctors is an aging population -- including scores of physicians who will be ready to retire soon, as well.
Population increases, in addition to Obamacare's emphasis on primary care, will create a need for over 50,000 more general-care physicians by 2025. Some of this demand can be filled by nurses, particularly nurse practitioners. This does nothing to alleviate the shortage of nurses, who, much like doctors, are also in demand, and whose ranks are stretched painfully thin. Some estimates say there will be at least 1.2 million licensed practical nurse and registered nurse jobs available by 2020.
Unfortunately, there are also fewer professors teaching the courses necessary to train nursing students. Nationwide, more than 75,000 would-be nurses were spurned in 2011 because of the instructor shortage.
High-paying jobs with real growth potential
What do some of these in-demand health-care jobs pay? Quite a lot, generally, and with the need for such positions growing day by day, job opportunity and security are practically assured.
For instance, some nursing-school applicants rejected because of space concerns are being steered into related fields that are also experiencing growth, such physical therapy and nutrition. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists, who generally need a doctorate for licensure, earn nearly $80,000 per year, while nutritionists are paid over $55,000 with just a bachelor's degree.
Some feel the instructor shortage is because those who teach can make more money in practice than in the classroom, something that may spur increases in nursing school faculty salaries. In California, new nursing faculty averaged close to $71,000 annually in 2011, nothing to sneeze at, certainly.
Nurse practitioners make more than $85,000 in a college or university setting, and well over $90,000 per year in hospitals and doctors' offices. Registered nurses make around $65,000 with an associate's degree, and licensed practical nurses are paid over $40,000 with one additional year of schooling after high school.
Physicians face the longest educational and training demands but are well-rewarded for their work. Median annual income in 2012 for a doctor in family medical practice, for instance, was more than $207,000.
It appears that many are heeding the call to enter the medical profession. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, applications to and enrollment in medical schools last year increased by 6.1% over the prior year, beating the record set in 1996. As a profession with guaranteed future growth, medicine is tough to beat.