Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Sid Salter: Personnel Shortage to Drive Healthcare Crisis for Baby Boomers

Last year and likely next year as well, the Mississippi Legislature was focused on the question of Medicaid expansion. The tenor of that debate focused on the perceived impact on the bottom line of beleaguered Mississippi hospitals under an expanded Medicaid program, particularly those in rural areas of Mississippi.

Yet with or without the expansion of Medicaid, a quite different healthcare crisis exists for providers and patients alike. Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1946 to 1964, are approaching the season of their lives when their healthcare needs will increase and become more pervasive and persistent.

Baby Boomers are the children of television, optimistic and industrious but prone to divorce and a distrust of government marked by the Vietnam War and Watergate. Boomers range in age from 60 to 78, so retirement, Social Security, Medicare and other healthcare issues are top of mind. Some Boomers are already dealing with issues like nagging ailments that require daily care or therapies.

Others are already in the mode of needing either daily home health or institutional care even though they are living longer due to the development of new drugs and other treatment improvements. With that increased life expectancy comes the hard realities of cognitive decline and increased periods of physical disability.

The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis reported in 2023 that the country faced a shortage of just under 140,000 physicians by 2036. Mississippi ranked last in the number of patient care practicing physicians per 100,000 population at 166. Vermont led the nation at 322.

So, with an aging (and growing!) population of people who will increasingly need healthcare, Mississippi and the rest of the country is facing a shortage of doctors and other key medical personnel. With two medical schools (University of Mississippi Medical School in Jackson and William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Hattiesburg) and a relatively small population, Mississippi is ahead of the curve in producing physicians compared to more urban states.

But the numbers skew when considering the need for specialists including obstetricians, pediatricians and those who render psychiatric care. Nursing shortages exacerbate the shortage of physicians.

The NCHWA projects a 9% shortage of registered nurses nationwide and a 14% shortage in non-metro areas in 2036. The demand for licensed practical nurses is expected to greatly outpace the supply resulting in a shortage of just under 100,000 LPNs or 14% by 3036.

Mississippi community colleges and universities are working to address those shortages. The state’s community colleges plus Alcorn State University and Mississippi University for Women offer associate degree nursing programs. Nine Mississippi public and private universities offer a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. Six universities offer a Master of Science degree in nursing and five offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Three institutions offer a Ph. D (Doctor of Philosophy) degree in nursing.

Two universities offer physician assistant programs, including Mississippi College and Mississippi State University. Physician assistants practice medicine under the guidance of supervising physicians. The State College Board has approved efforts to establish a PA program at the University of Southern Mississippi.

In the latest move to address healthcare personnel shortages, the College Board recently approved two new schools at MSU-Meridian’s Riley campus in downtown Meridian - the School of Health Professions and the School of Nursing. The School of Nursing oversees the accelerated Master of Science in Nursing program. The program allows college graduates holding non-nursing degrees to enter the nursing profession as candidates for registered nurse licensure.

Even with the cooperative efforts of the state’s community colleges and universities, the healthcare personnel shortages will be significant in rural Mississippi for years to come.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

Baby boomers are going to get exactly what they want. Imported, third world healthcare workers who speak in incomprehensible dialect and will treat them the same way they treat livestock. But this is the globalist, outsourced, America that provided the boomers their wealth and robbed their grandkids of a future.

Anonymous said...

For at least the past 15 years medical doctors who see patients have been pushing for more and more physician's assistants and nurse practitioners.

Is this because they have been worried about staff shortages or because they're lazy and want to shove off half their patient-load to staff who are untrained in the highest levels of patient care. Doctors can't get full payment now for a multitude of ailments owned by the Boomers Sid talks about, so why waste their time seeing us?

Hmmm. If we need all these lower level doctor-wanabees, we don't need all these doctors. I go to multiple clinics at my age and used to see an MD every time I visited a clinic. I haven't seen one, now, in two years.

Anonymous said...

As a boomer not living in a rural area, my spouse and I recognize the shortage. It is difficult to get a timely appointment when something goes wrong, and walk-in clinics refer to their affiliated hospital's doctors.

Also, we see the " business" model in use, where waits are long and we are like "widgets" in an assembly line. It used to be in a " specialty" even that patients had their own doctors and would be "seen" quickly when ill. So we are urged to go to an emergency room where costs are higher and wait time is even longer.

Then, Medicare acceptance and a battle with our "supplemental" insurers ensues.

Profit rules all our lives now. Once upon a time in a country our children miss, this wasn't the case and our children and grandchild don't realize a country ruled on greed and party loyalty rather than honor and community is the problem.

Medicine is now a business , not a profession.

Anonymous said...

Rural MS can get prosperous enough to take care of their own health care or move to a city that has hospitals that accept indigents.

Anonymous said...

I see an internist, a cardiologist, an eye doctor, an orthopaedic surgeon, and a cardiologist, and have no trouble getting the necessary appointments. I am grateful for access to excellent health care in Jackson.

Anonymous said...

Of course Medicine is a business. If government ran the whole thing, you would be on a cold gurney in a drafty hallway with a med student to take your appendix out, after you waited 2 months with acute appendecitis.

Anonymous said...

MS is not a retirement destination. Check out the laws (there are none) that protect the elderly. With the government forcing high cost, substandard care, they have created rich owners of nursing homes/medicaid payment providers and left their vulnerable with crappy care. Rural hospitals had wings dedicated to nursing home so they could stay afloat in rural communities. When the state forced, $125,000 annually on its people, they shut down. As I take care of parents , I realized I needed to plan my retirement in another state that has a better care system. Until voters want a change, we will continue to have rulers (the good ole boy club of MS) and the rest of the state who is and wants to be last in this nation. Tag I am out and it is all yours.

Anonymous said...

The nurse practitioners I’ve encounter do a great job. This includes spinal, shoulder and general medical services. We need more NPs.

Anonymous said...

There’s always a coming “crisis,” and those that helped create said “crisis” will always be willing to tell us how about the next “fix.”

Get ready to hear the words “boomers” and “crisis” together more and more and more. The “rich men north of Virginia,” the ones that recently printed $9 Trillion, knowing the electorate doesn’t have the common sense required to understand “it has to come from somewhere,” those rich men need somebody to blame for the currency devaluation pain (crisis) the younger generations are dealing with, and “boomers” are as good a group to blame as any.

Re: the nursing shortage, pay them more, then magically, the nursing shortage goes away, without the help of universities, the same group that help perpetrate the student loan “crisis.”

Anonymous said...

9:22 - You nailed it. I'm 12 years away from retirement and I've begun traveling to at least one destination a year to try to figure out where to run to when it's all done.

Anonymous said...

9:13 it's government interference in healthcare that has created so many of the problems. You say healthcare is a business, and it certainly is. So when the government artificially passes laws that force hospitals to treat anyone who shows up, regardless of their ability to pay, where does the hospital lay that uncompensated care? It's a write-off, and the billions in write-offs nationwide must be reconciled with higher day rates, elevated service charges, and yes the famous $20 aspirin pill. In turn, insurance companies get charged more, and they in turn charge their policy holders more, which means a higher deduction from paychecks to cover that healthcare coverage. That's just one example of government meddline (there are many) that makes healthcare more expensive for us all. Some say it's the humane thing to do, and maybe it is, but the bill still has to be paid - it's just a matter of who pays it, and how much.

Anonymous said...

10:12 Where are you going to run? There's no where to run. Canada? Spain? Let me know. I'm listening.

Anonymous said...

The state could possibly get several hundred more students involved in nursing programs if the college board would approve a program for Jackson State. Not going to happen though. That just don't fit the master plan no matter the need. One more reason why Mississippi is last.

Anonymous said...

“Life’s a bitch, and then you die “.. so …..

Anonymous said...

New doctors do not want to stay in Mississippi. Guy next door has 2 sons at UMMC and says they hear from recruiters all over the U.S. They will not be staying.

Anonymous said...

Nurse practitioners are great!
But, u get billed for SEEING a doctor!!!!

Anonymous said...

I saw a Physician's Assistant a month or so back. I engaged her in conversation in order to find out just exactly what her training and experience and duties were. She explained, I guess, that she's a pay grade higher than nurse and on the level of NP, pay wise.

After an X-ray she advised me that I had arthritis, not gout (as I thought). I didn't bother to tell her that gout is arthritis.

Say It With Me...ON LINE said...

There will never be a shortage of supply as long as a demand exists. Sid may not know this since he exists in the world of a higher-education-bubble and that bubble is about to realize there ain't no demand.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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