High Demand in Health Care Jobs in Western States

top health jobs

Health care jobs are in high demand in Idaho. The Idaho Department of Labor’s 2010-2020 forecast for the hottest jobs in the state shows six of the top 10 are in health care. However, Idaho’s demand for health care workers is not unique in the western United States, where competition could become intense to fill health care openings.

The need for registered nurses in Idaho is expected to increase more than 40 percent between 2010 and 2020 and could be even greater if the state follows others and requires all registered nurses to have bachelor’s degrees in nursing. The estimate sees registered nurses increasing from 11,500 in 2010 to nearly 17,000 in 2020.

Other areas of the medical profession are showing significant growth as well. Among the health care occupations in the top are medical and health services mangers, which will grow by 29.9 percent; physical therapists, 41.2 percent; dental hygienists, 30.2 percent; pharmacists, 22.9 percent; and physicians and surgeons 22.5 percent.

There are multiple factors driving the need for more health care workers.

Idaho, and the rest of the nation, is getting older. As people age, they generally need more medical care, and with baby boomers increasingly moving into retirement, that will be true in spades. While Idaho’s population growth has slowed from the mid-2000 expansion years, it continues increasing, adding to demand for health care professionals along with advances in medicine that are extending life spans into the 80s and beyond.

But other states in the West are experiencing the same thing, even if to a lesser extent, and that is generating competition for health care workers.

nurse growth

Physician, registered nurse, physical therapist and pharmacist occupations are expected to see significant growth in Idaho’s bordering states as well as in Idaho although the intensity of demand varies.

One area of concern for Idaho health care employers may be their median wage for registered nurses, which is considerably lower than the neighboring states of Washington, Oregon and Nevada, giving employers in those states an advantage in recruiting nurses.

Idaho has the lowest wage rate for registered nurses among the six states, although only by pennies for Utah, Montana and Wyoming, and it has by far the highest demand, due in part to the so-called “Silver Tsunami” of many senior citizens retiring to Idaho.

These factors aggravate the shortage of nurses in Idaho.

Idaho also has a greater demand for additional doctors than the other six states except for Utah, and Idaho offers a higher median wage than the other states except Nevada. That higher wage may mean Idaho will have greater success recruiting physicians.

Pharmacists are in the highest demand in Idaho regionally as well, but Idaho ranks sixth among the seventh states in its median hourly pay for pharmacists. Although the gap between Idaho and the top state, Washington at $54.97, is only $2.84, the difference in wage rates could still be a deciding factor in recruiting pharmacists.

Idaho’s demand for physical therapists is higher than the six bordering states, but again its median wage lags the rest of the region except Montana. And this could aggravate shortages in the future.

While the rise in demand for health care professionals is a matter of concern, it could benefit Idaho State University, which has been designated by the Idaho State Board of Education as the state’s flagship health care university. Idaho State offers 75 percent of the health care degree programs in Idaho. Currently, one-third of the school’s graduates receive degrees involving health care.

Idaho State has positioned itself well to take advantage of several career fields in the health care industry. As students become more attracted to majors in health care, enrollment is likely to grow, and that will stimulate the local economy of Pocatello with more students, and possibly faculty, on the campus.

— Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov, Regional Economist
(208) 236-6710 ext. 3713

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