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The Anesthesiologist & CRNA Staffing Crisis

By 2034, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that there will be a shortage of 124,000 doctors in the United States. While this statistic underscores broader staffing issues in the healthcare industry, healthcare organizations are also currently facing an anesthesiologist and CRNA staffing crisis. Even if you have enough staff currently, you should know more about the current projections for future CRNA and anesthesiologist staffing shortages and the reasons for these projections.

How Serious Is the Anesthesiologist and CRNA Staffing Crisis? Key Statistics about CRNA and Anesthesiologist Shortages

If you’re a healthcare organization planning for the future, it’s important to know a few key facts about projected shortages for CRNAs and anesthesiologists. Review the main statistics and projections about anesthesiologists and CRNAs below:

  • In 2007 (the last time a major study was performed on anesthesia providers), a study found a nationwide shortage of 1,282 CRNAs and 3,800 anesthesiologists.
  • Demand for surgical services will likely increase by 2-3% per year over the next decade, meaning the demand for anesthesiologists and CRNAs will increase.
  • CRNAs are growing at a faster annual rate (9.8%) compared to anesthesiologists, with many locations in the U.S. having a greater than 2:1 ratio between CRNAs and anesthesiologists as of July 2021.
  • In rural communities, 80% of anesthesia providers are CRNAs, raising questions about the quality of care.
  • The AAMC predicts that specialties like anesthesiology, neurology, addiction medicine, and emergency medicine will face a shortage of 10,300 to 35,600 physicians by 2034.
  • As of 2021, 56.9% of anesthesiologists are older than 55
  • Close to 30% of anesthesiologists are expected to leave the practice by 2033.
  • From 2021 to 2022, over 2,872 anesthesiologists left the workforce.
  • 46% of medical students who applied for an anesthesiology residency did not match in 2023.

The above data underscores why many healthcare organizations are preparing for or currently experiencing an anesthesiologist shortage. While the overall supply of CRNAs is growing faster than anesthesiologists, some healthcare organizations, especially in rural areas, may find it difficult to fill open CRNA positions.

Fortunately, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists states that more than 2,400 CRNAs graduate each year. Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that around 7,600 new CRNA positions will need to be filled by 2028, the supply of new CRNAs may meet demand or even exceed it. Despite the positive outlook for CRNAs, healthcare organizations are struggling to hire CRNAs, and many statistics point to the anesthesiologist shortage continuing through the next decade.

Why Are There CRNA and Anesthesiologist Shortages?

As your organization attempts to find qualified anesthesiologists and CRNAs, you’ll need to know the main factors causing these shortages. Understanding the main drivers behind CRNA and anesthesiologist staffing shortages can help organizations prepare for the future and take action to mitigate the risks of shortages. Find out more about the main reasons for CRNA and anesthesiologist shortages below:

  • Lack of proper Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding: Until December 2020, GME funding for new residency positions had been effectively frozen due to the Balanced Budget Act. While GME funding has resumed, its pause likely limited the supply of anesthesiologists, and the AAMC supports increased federal support for GME to address physician shortages. Supporting legislation to increase GME funding for anesthesiology residency positions may be helpful in incentivizing medical students to specialize in anesthesiology.
  • High percentage of aging anesthesiologists: With over half of practicing anesthesiologists being 55 years of age or older, shortages will likely occur after these anesthesiologists retire. Unless the supply of young anesthesiologists increases, many healthcare organizations will struggle to fill open anesthesiologist positions in the near future.
  • Increase in people 65 years or older: On top of an aging workforce, we’ll see a 55% increase in the number of people 65 years or older in the United States over the next decade. This increase supports the previously mentioned 2-3% growth in demand for surgical services over the next decade. With a larger aging population, the demand for CRNAs and anesthesiologists will grow, leading to projected future shortages.
  • Physician reluctance to take on teaching roles: Training the next generation of anesthesiologists and CRNAs is essential to addressing current and future shortages. Unfortunately, the shortage of anesthesiologists and burnout have caused many physicians to not have the time or energy to take teaching positions. As a result, students often don’t have faculty or preceptors to assist and learn from.

Choose OnCall Solutions for CRNA and Anesthesiologist Staffing Solutions

Due to the shortage of CRNAs and anesthesiologists, it’s essential to have a strategic staffing partner in your corner. At OnCall Solutions, we regularly help healthcare organizations quickly receive highly qualified locum tenens, moonlighting, part-time, and full-time anesthesiologists and CRNAs via our nationwide network and local model. We also make onboarding easy as we assist with credentialing and operational and billing expertise. Alongside assisting healthcare organizations, we have services designed to help CRNAs and anesthesiologists find open positions fitting their career goals.

Learn more about our CRNA staffing and anesthesiologist staffing solutions. If you have any questions or want help hiring CRNAs or anesthesiologists, please contact us.

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