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Aging Healthcare Workforce Could Put Nation's Health at Risk, According to BC Report

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (June 29, 2010)—As the nation prepares to provide care for the increasing proportion of older adults and respond to the widespread implications of healthcare reform, healthcare workers are aging out of the sector, revealing an increased need for skilled workers, according to a new report by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College.

Compared to other sectors, the demographic profile of the US healthcare sector is disproportionately composed of older workers. Yet a lower percentage of health care organizations have assessed (to a moderate/great extent)
the age of their workforces (29%), the skills they anticipate needing (42%), or the competency sets of current employees (48%), compared to other industries (43%, 54% and 61%, respectively).

Evidence suggests that the sector is at least somewhat aware of the impending skills gap. About two in three employees in the health sector have received formal training from their employers (62%), and greater than one in three workers are involved in decision-making task forces (36%) or self-managed teams (39%).

“The impending retirement of such a highly skilled workforce is creating shortages that could potentially affect the process and delivery of certain types of care,” said Center Director Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, co-primary investigator for the (2009) Talent Management Study and co-author of the report. “But the good news is that the health care sector is serious about investing in their employees.”

Currently, employers in the health care sector reported significantly more talent management concerns than organizations in other sectors of the economy.

Healthcare employers report top skill areas in short supply include: management (42.4%), sales/marketing (34.8%), legal (33.0%), operations (29.0%), and technical computer skills (27.6%). Additionally, health care organizations report a greater shortage of customer-relations skills (26.0%), and nearly one in five employers (17%) reported skill needs in areas such as literacy, writing, and math.

“Our findings suggest that the health care sector—the one most threatened by the aging of the workforce—has limited knowledge of the talent that will continue to be available to them,” Pitt-Catsouphes said. “Employers should take note and amplify investments in training, while also reconsidering recruitment and retention efforts—ultimately these investments could effect the health of the nation.”

For more information, please see:

Contact: Chad Minnich, Center on Aging & Work, 617-552-3122,