Most states will face a shortage of intensive care unit (ICU) doctors as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit the U.S., according to research released this week.
Researchers from The George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health determined that 26 states risk not having enough ICU doctors to treat patients, including those with COVID-19.
Last week, the researchers’ State Hospital Workforce Deficit Estimator, used to track each state’s health care workforce numbers, said that five states were facing shortages.
The workforce deficit estimator shows that seven states risk running low on doctors trained to work in hospitals, nine may risk shortages for respiratory therapists and six may not have enough pharmacists.
“At a time when COVID-19 continues to surge in the United States, our current analysis shows that most states are at risk of running low on these critical healthcare workers,” Patricia Pittman, the director of the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at the Milken Institute.
Pittman and her team developed the workforce deficit estimator to assist the federal and state governments in being able to see which states have a demand for health care workers amid the pandemic. Politicians can use the tool to plan for surges by sending staff to the necessary locations.
But filling gaps of intensive care unit doctors is particularly challenging as these physicians undergo an additional six years of training after medical school. ICU pharmacists are required to finish two years of residency after four years of pharmacy school, according to ABC News.
Other health care positions like nurse practitioners and physician assistants may be less difficult to recruit from lower ranks for staffing.
New York City, which was one of the first major epicenters of the pandemic in the U.S., had struggled with health care worker shortages, prompting the city to call health care workers from around the country to help.