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California Will Need 1 Million Health Workers by 2030

California Will Need 1 Million Health Workers by 2030

The Sacramento Bee

September 23, 2009

By 2030, California will need to train almost 1 million more technicians, dental hygienists and other support workers considered vital to the health care industry, according to a report released Tuesday.

But the state’s higher education system has capacity to train only 63 percent of the needed work force.

These allied health workers don’t include doctors and nurses. The category covers about 50 occupations. And though they make up 60 percent of all health care employees, they are described by many as the “hidden health care work force.”

The report, funded by the California Wellness Foundation, said the 15-county area surrounding Sacramento will need approximately 214,000 to 253,000 new health workers.

Over the next 20 years, California needs up to 1.5 million people to replace workers retiring or leaving the field. At least 1 million will need job-specific training and certification.

Also driving the need is expected population growth in California. The state will grow by 10.2 million people by 2030, with the population of over-65 residents doubling to 9 million, the report projected.

Occupations in highest demand will be nursing aides, medical secretaries, medical assistants, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, home health aides, dental assistants and dental hygienists.

It’s not just for the future; even in this recession, these workers are in high demand.

“I wouldn’t say we’re being fought over, but I rarely hear of an unemployed physician assistant,” said Juan Carlos DeVilla, president of the Physician Assistant Society of Sacramento.

California will need up to 18,000 new physician assistants in the next 20 years.

In recent years, Sutter Health has partnered with local community colleges, doing everything from paying tuition to developing lesson plans. Smith-Dohring said Sutter is in the midst of creating ultrasound and medical lab technician programs.

This public-private model is expanding: in April, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger committed $32 million to training partnerships.

Local community colleges say several factors restrict how many people they can train.

Health care classes require lab space and small instructor-student ratios, said Sandy Kirschenmann, vice chancellor at Los Rios Community College District. Additionally, instructors are hard to come by because they usually make more money practicing than teaching.

Los Rios community colleges offer 10 allied health programs, which have reached full enrollment the past few years.

“The waiting lists are unbelievable,” said Kirschenmann.

She said Los Rios will introduce medical lab and ultrasound technician programs in the near future, if the district gets federal stimulus money.

“It’s a hardship for us, because we know how much the health care industry needs workers,” she said.

-—- Call The Bee’s Anna Tong, (916) 321-1045. -— To see more of The Sacramento Bee, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sacbee.com/. Copyright © 2009, The Sacramento Bee, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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