Direct-care workers will outnumber healthcare facility workers more than two-to-one by 2020, according to an analysis by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI).
In 2011, there were at least 4 million nursing assistants, home health aides and personal care aides, with most working in home and community-based settings. Those direct-care workers represented almost 31 percent of the entire U.S. healthcare workforce, according to the analysis.
The direct-care workforce is set to experience a major boom, with home health aides and personal care aides adding more than 2 million jobs and another 700,000 job openings due to vacancies from attrition by 2020, according to a March study by Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany.
The growing direct-care workforce reflects the larger shift toward home and community-based healthcare settings. The PHI findings come as the industry is increasing coordinated care efforts to keep patients out of costly hospital beds, noted HealthcareFinanceNews. Even nursing care is moving in-home to cut costs and improve outcomes.
"Carework in America is at a crossroads," PHI Policy Research Director Dorie Seavey said in a statement. "We can continue the status quo, adding direct-care positions that are poorly supported and poorly compensated, and then backfill them with public assistance. Or we can acknowledge this workforce as a key underutilized asset in our healthcare system and exploit its enormous potential as one of the strongest job engines that our economy has to offer," she said.