California anticipated to need 450,000 new health care workers by 2015

California is predicted to need up to 450,000 new health care workers in the next decade, primarily those with certificates and associate degrees.

While the demand for physicians and highly-trained specialists continues to be steady, a majority of the health care workers needed in the coming years will be in technology and support positions, according to a recent report from the Public Policy Institute of California, and will require associate degrees rather than long-term training and specialization. The state’s two-year institutions are now under pressure to improve their allied health programs and student outcomes in order to provide training for many future health workers.

“Certainly one of the things (that could be done better) would be to have a little bit more support staff for the instructors,” surgical technology student Clifford Schulman said.“Our instructor, Alice, has to do all of her own everything. If she had even a part time administrative assistant to handle all of the office work, the data entry, everyone’s exam scores, their assignments, all that kind of stuff, it would free her up to spend more time with us in the lab and give us more personalized instruction.”

While surgical technology, nursing, and other two-year programs are projected to be the fields that need the largest increase in workers, nursing programs state-wide are impacted and other programs, such as surgical technology, have a long wait list and overworked faculty.

According to the PPIC report, community colleges are the answer to the projected shortfall of health workers. However, they will be required “to increase access to high-demand and high-return programs and improve student outcomes without losing sight of their open-access mandate.”

California’s health care workforce is growing, but the report projects that even more workers will still be needed in the near future. It also states that the potential lack of health workers is part of the bigger issue of California’s overall “skills gap,” and says that the state is facing a shortage of 1.5 million workers who will need some college education, but less than a bachelor’s degree, by 2025.