Anesthesiologists were called to the front lines of the war on COVID-19, serving an invaluable role in ventilator operation, intubating, and even managing the overall care of critical patients – as airway experts, respiratory physicians, and intensivists. While the demand for critical care anesthesiologists to fight the pandemic skyrocketed, other non-critical care areas of the profession were negatively impacted due to the cancelling or postponement of non-essential surgical procedures. These factors have influenced the current and future labor market dynamics for these essential healthcare professionals.
Overall Supply and Demand Projections.
There are currently an estimated 33,000 anesthesiologists in the United States, and the job market is expected to grow by 15.5% between 2016 and 2026. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortfall of almost 140,000 physicians by 2033, with around 12,500 of them being anesthesiologists.
Among anesthesiologists, baby boomers dominate, representing 37.6% of the sector but only 27% of the general U.S. workforce. With the aging of the U.S. population and the need to replace retiring anesthesiologists, ensuring a stead supply of these specialists will be paramount. The good news is the country is seeing a 20% increase in graduates and graduate medical education positions since 2015, producing over 1,800 anesthesiologists on a yearly basis.
Dramatic Increase in Demand for Critical Care Anesthesiologists.
Interestingly, the U.S. is the only developed nation where anesthesiologists do not routinely manage critical care. However, the pandemic may revive this practice area. In fact, the Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists already witnessed a growing interest among residents during the pandemic, stating “we have seen a remarkable effort by anesthesia residents volunteering for ICU shifts, irrespective of their post graduate year and level of training, or even future plans for further critical care training.”
According to another estimate, of anesthesiology graduates each year, roughly 200 will go into pain medicine and another 50-75 will go into critical care.
Non-Critical Care Anesthesiology May See Future Surge in Demand.
The cancelling or postponement of non-essential surgical procedures during the height of the pandemic created a workforce reduction for non-critical care, surgical anesthesiologists, and practices. As the pandemic continues to improve and consumers begin to feel more comfortable pursuing postponed surgical procedures, we will likely see a surge in demand for surgical and other non-critical care anesthesiologists.
Future of Anesthesiology.
The future demand for anesthesiologists is solid given U.S. demographic trends, return of elective surgeries and procedures, and ongoing critical care needs. In addition, while much of the medical industry is shifting to telemedicine as a result of the pandemic, anesthesia is not. Surgeries can’t be done over a computer screen and where there is a surgery, there is an anesthesia professional.
With the growing demand for anesthesia services, many healthcare facilities are utilizing alternative staffing solutions, such as locum tenens to not only gain the anesthesia services they need, but also reducing healthcare spending since they only pay for the demand their facility incurs.
To gain more insight into the changing labor market dynamics for anesthesiologists, download our latest Market Snapshot: Anesthesiologists.