- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2004

BALTIMORE — Maryland universities and colleges are not keeping pace with the growing demand for health care professionals, according to a state study released yesterday.

Of the top 25 occupations, 19 are expected to have a gap of at least 40 percent between the number of graduates and the number of openings expected through 2010.

Maryland Secretary of Higher Education Calvin W. Burnett said the report is a “call to action” to educators to encourage students to pursue health care careers.

James D. Fielder Jr., state secretary of labor, licensing and regulation, said a plan is being developed to respond to the shortages predicted in the report.

“We were aware that the state would experience a health care shortage, but the numbers allowed us to see just how great the need would be,” Mr. Fielder said.

The report was compiled for the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Graduation and enrollment estimates from more than 200 health care programs offered by 15 colleges and universities, 16 community colleges and 19 private career schools were compared with occupational projections prepared by the state labor department. The study, however, did not take into account the migration of health care professionals into and out of the state, the report notes.

Maryland did not have any chiropractic graduates because there are no state programs for this discipline, for example, even though 81 annual openings were expected from 2000 to 2010.

For home-health aides, the state is expected to have 215 annual openings from 2000 to 2010, but only five graduates were reported in 2002. Openings for 86 medical transcriptionists are expected, but only nine graduated in 2002.

Although there is a 57 percent gap for physicians and surgeons, that shortfall is not as much of a concern because of the attraction of the state’s highly regarded hospitals, the report said.

“When it comes to occupations that require less training and the salaries are lower, there’s less in-and-out-of-state migration, so you really have to grow your own,” said study co-author Judy Hendrickson, director of academic affairs for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

“We’re saying there’s really some serious consequences, if in fact we really can’t better meet the demand. These are occupations that touch the lives of everybody.”

Those positions include nursing aides, attendants, transcriptionists and diagnostic medical sonographers, the report said.

The report also includes several recommendations for closing the gap between graduates and predicted openings, including:

• Working to increase graduation rates and keep graduates in the state.

• Increasing access to health care programs by expanding financial aid, expanding the geographic distribution of programs, and creating alternative training methods.

• Developing career paths and training programs that reduce the time and cost of training.

• Attracting nontraditional populations, including youths, minorities, men and discharged military, to the health care field.

• Importing health care workers trained outside the state.

• Decreasing the need for health care professionals by increasing the efficiency of health care workers and promoting preventive medicine.

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