UAMS Study Shows Health Care Workforce Shortages in Arkansas Will Double by 2008

By todd

UAMS surveyed hospitals, nursing homes, county health departments, and many clinics across the state about their current and anticipated vacancies in 79 health care occupations. The study is the first of its kind in Arkansas.

“This study represents an important new step in UAMS service to communities across Arkansas,” according to Charles O. Cranford, UAMS vice chancellor for regional programs. “Local communities, institutions of higher education, and health care agencies will be able to use this data to focus their hiring and recruitment strategies and, we hope, prevent some of the shortages that are now feared.”

Based on the survey, UAMS projects shortages in health care professions overall will more than double by 2008. Health care organizations reported serious current and anticipated vacancies in many allied health professions, such as certified nurse assistants, home health aides, licensed physical therapy assistants, ophthalmic technicians, and social workers. The survey also confirmed the growing shortage of nurses that is already well known. Hospitals had the highest numbers of current and expected vacancies.

“We know that shortages of health care workers in hospitals and other settings have real consequences for the quality of health care. We also know that Arkansans rank 42nd in the nation in terms of how healthy we are overall – so worsening shortages of key health care workers are a real and serious health threat to the people of our state,” Cranford said.

UAMS found the following current numbers of vacancies among the 341 respondents to the survey: nurses (1,440), physician specialists (522), primary care physicians (238), allied health professionals (1,187).

UAMS found the following numbers of vacancies projected by 2008 among the 341 respondents: nurses (3,052), physician specialists (408), primary care physicians (281), allied health professionals (4,499).

The allied health professions include audiologist, speech pathologist, biomedical instrumentation technologist, clinical nutritionist, cytotechnologist, diagnostic sonographer, dietician, emergency medical technologist (EMT), EMT-intermediate, EMT-paramedic, medical records technologist, medical technologist, nuclear medicine technologist, physician assistant, psychologist (doctoral prepared), psychologist (master’s prepared), radiation therapist, radiologic technologist, and recreational therapist, activity aide, certified medical assistant, certified nurse assistant, certified occupational therapy assistant, dietary aide, environmental services, health education, health information systems technician, home health aide, licensed professional counselor, licensed physical therapy assistant, occupational therapist, ophthalmic technician, phlebotomist, physical therapist, psychiatric aide, and social worker.

The UAMS Regional Programs office collected the data between July and October 2002, surveying a total of 774 health care agencies and received responses from 341, or 44 percent of those surveyed.

The study’s authors sorted the results by profession, type of health care agency, and AHEC regions. The AHECs, or Area Health Education Centers, are satellites of UAMS which provide residency training for physicians, on-site learning experiences for other health care students, and continuing education in many health care professions, as well as family medicine clinics for local communities. The complete report is available at

The co-authors of the report are Ann Bynum, Ed.D., director of the UAMS Rural Hospital Program; Cathy Irwin, Ph.D., R.N., a research associate; Rick Guyton, Ph.D., director of the AHEC-Northwest; and Cranford.

UAMS is a comprehensive academic health center with degree programs in many health care professions, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and the allied health professions.