Study: Too Many EMTs, Paramedics in Calif.

Health care workers already comprise a significant part of Inland Southern California’s workforce, and lot more will be needed in the next few years, a new report has found.

This is the first study to look at the kind of health workers that are in demand now and might be needed in the future, and which professions probably will be in oversupply.

The study was prepared by Inland Empire-San Diego Center of Excellence, a regional project started by the California Community College chancellor’s office. It was commissioned by the economic development department and workforce investment boards of both Inland counties, and is expected to give some direction to schools that train medical personnel.

“This was really the first time we could put the gap into perspective and were able to match oversupply with undersupply,” said Mark Christiansen, deputy director of the Riverside County Economic Development Agency.

The report comes on the heels of a recession that saw some 160,000 jobs disappear between 2007 and 2011 in the two Inland counties. But, during those four years, companies that hire health care added about 5,200 employees. If the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, it could bring in some Inland 500,000 people who currently have no insurance. Population in Riverside and San Bernardino counties is expected to top 4.7 million in the next three years and hit 5.2 million by 2020.

Health-related professionals, from primary care physicians to home health aides, currently make up about 8 percent of the Inland workforce, but the area does not have enough medical professionals. There is one healthcare professional for every 34 Inland residents, the report found. It was one for every 22 people in Orange County and one for every 23 in Los Angeles County.

“This helps the educational institutions adapt their offerings,” said Zhenya Lindstrom, director of the Center of Excellence and one of the study’s authors.

Currently there is an oversupply in many areas, the report found. For examples, based on the people who completed their training in 2011, the entire dental health profession had too many people entering the field, especially dental assistants.

There are also too many registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, pharmacy technicians and emergency medical technicians and paramedics who tried to enter the workforce within the last year, at least based on current need.

But the report found undersupplies of physicians and surgeons, physician assistants, medical and clinical lab technicians and pharmacists. Nursing assistants was the profession that had the most demand.

Miguel McQueen, deputy director of the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department, said the problem of students picking the professions with poor local demand may not be as severe as in the past because the Internet has made many job-hunters a little more savvy than people in past generations were.

But McQueen said this kind of data is still needed because ultimately most people zero in on how much money they can make and not the demand.

“You tend to gravitate toward the starting salary,” McQueen said. “You don’t realize that first, you need experience, not to mention someone who’s hiring.”

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