While the number of hospices and other organizations providing palliative care continues to expand nationwide, staffing shortages represent a barrier that threatens to slow this growth.
The United States has 13.35 hospice and palliative care specialists for every 100,000 adults 65 and older, according to an April 2018 study. The research estimated that by 2040 the patient population will need 10,640 to 24,000 specialists; supply is expected to range between 8,100 and 19,000.
Hospice and palliative care providers also experience shortages in non-physician disciplines, including chaplains, nurses, and social workers. As far back as 2008, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) began allowing hospice providers to use contracted nursing staff because not enough nurses were available to fill permanent positions.
“The workforce pipeline is a crisis for both hospice and palliative care. It is very clear to us that there will never be enough of a specialist trained workforce to even begin to meet the exploding need for palliative care and hospice services,” Diane Meier, M.D., executive director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) said in a recent Hospice News webinar. “We have got to step into the bridge and try to compensate for the failure of medical and nursing ]schools to teach future generations of clinicians how to communicate about what matters most to patients, how to manage common distressing symptoms, [which is] simply not part of our training.”
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