The Increasing Demand for Mental Health Talent

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In a recent state of the market survey conducted by Medicus Healthcare Solutions, about 40 percent of hospital leaders indicated that psychiatry would be the in-demand specialty over the next 6-12 months. When reflecting back over the last 12 months, it is easy to see why this will likely be the case. 

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, people worldwide had to practice social distancing, utilizing online video as a replacement for in-person contact. In a study conducted last October by researchers at Making Caring Common, 36 percent of respondents, to a national survey of approximately 950 Americans, reported feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time” in the prior four weeks. (The Harvard Gazette) In addition to most people’s workdays being turned completely upside down last year, many struggled with balancing work and home life while juggling working remotely with spouses and/or educating children who were learning from home. 

Additional insights shared in a public opinion poll released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found that: 

  • More than four in ten Americans (41%) said they are more anxious than last year. While still substantial, that is down from just over 60 percent last year. 
  • More than four in 10 adults (43%) reported the pandemic has had a serious impact on their mental health, up from 37 percent in 2020. 
  • Slightly fewer Americans reported that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their day-to-day life now compared to a year ago, such as problems sleeping (19% down from 22%), difficulties concentrating (18% down from 20%), and fighting more with loved ones (16% down from 17%). 
  • The percentage of adults consuming more alcohol or other substances/drugs than normal increased slightly since last year from 14 to 17 percent.  
  • Additionally, 33 percent of adults (40% of women) reported gaining weight during the pandemic. 

The nation is leaning on psychiatrists and mental health professionals as people of all ages and walks of life continue to navigate the new and evolving norm. However, the question remains, are there enough mental health professionals to service such a widespread need? According to data aggregated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), the answer is no. 

In fact, in the U.S., there are a total of 5,930 areas designated as mental healthcare health professional shortage areas (HPSA). For reference, for mental health, the population to provider ratio must be at least 30,000 to 1, or 20,000 to 1 if there are unusually high needs in the community. According to HRSA, 6,559 practitioners are needed to fill the current shortage.  

The need for accessible, scalable, fully-stepped mental healthcare has accelerated beyond expectations, creating a tremendous need for mental health talent. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of psychiatrists is projected to grow 3.5 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations but may also not be reflective all of the demand seen in the last half of 2020 and as of late.  

Organizations are prioritizing the mental health of their employees by offering extended benefits, like paying workers to take a vacation and offering on-demand therapy. The pandemic uncovered that the infrastructure and support for mental health is insufficient. Providers are entangled in demanding and inflexible workplace cultures, leading to burnout. A new report on the future of benefits shows that 98 percent of human resource leaders and C-suite decision-makers from across the U.S. plan to newly offer or expand at least one benefit due to lessons learned during the crisis. (Harvard Business Review) 

For those hospitals and healthcare organizations planning to hire mental health professionals, the advice is to start the search early and forecast future openings as much as possible.  

When it comes to mental health, there is much work to be done; and just like the anticipated changes to come, the demand for mental health talent is imminent.  

To create a roadmap for your organization’s mental health hiring needs, contact Medicus. Or, if you are a mental health professional interested in new career opportunities, register with Medicus to begin your job search.

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