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How hospital employment has changed in San Francisco

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December 12, 2023

This story originally appeared on Medical Technology Schools and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

How hospital employment has changed in San Francisco

Hospitals have added more than half a million jobs nationwide over the past decade. Just in the past year, hospital employment grew by 152,000, or about 3%, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows. The U.S. population is growing and aging, and people are living longer. As a result, health care jobs—including those at hospitals—are expected to grow at above-average rates.

Medical Technology Schools used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to chart how employment at San Francisco hospitals has changed in recent years as part of a larger analysis of 20 major U.S. metros. Data were not seasonally adjusted.

Most metros saw sizable increases in hospital workers per capita over the past 10 years. However, a few saw those ratios decrease amid a shortage of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. U.S. health facilities may struggle to fill jobs vacated by retirees and career switchers, let alone find professionals to fill new roles. Health care providers are experiencing increased burnout, and some hospitals—particularly in rural areas—face funding challenges. Still, in addition to per capita figures, overall hospital employment grew in all but four of the metros included in the broader analysis.

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Hospital jobs in San Francisco and beyond

There are about 13,400 people employed at hospitals in the San Francisco metro, down 2,300 workers (-14.6%) from 2013. Since last year, hospital employment has grown about 3.1%.

By volume and per capita, most metros have grown their hospital staffs to some degree over the past decade.

Tampa led the cohort in hospital growth per capita. The metro's population is growing incredibly fast, and its hospitals have followed suit. In addition to a budding Medical and Research District, the region's leading Tampa General Hospital is expanding rapidly. Last year, Tampa General opened a new rehabilitation hospital, and now it's in the midst of a 500,000-square-foot hospital expansion that will create nearly 6,000 jobs.

Tampa isn't the only part of the Sunshine State with an abundance of hospitals—and for good reason. In 2019, Florida eliminated government approval requirements for new hospitals. Now, dozens of them are going up across the fast-growing state. While ease of access for many residents may improve, KFF Health News reported that having more hospitals could end up escalating health care costs.

That fear is what led Massachusetts to block some hospital additions in Boston, where government approval is still required. Despite a few rejections and repeals, several hospitals throughout the metro are building capacity, including Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The COVID-19 pandemic stressed Boston's existing hospital infrastructure, adding urgency to upgrade and add hospital beds throughout the city. Boston is an international hub for medicine and life sciences, so it's unsurprising it is among the metros leading the country in hospital employment gains.

Not every metro is experiencing the same surplus. Hospitals in San Francisco—and across California—have faced consolidations and closures due to financial and staffing challenges. Dr. Renee Hsia, a professor at the University of California San Francisco's Department of Emergency Medicine, told the San Francisco Chronicle that health care services are often reduced in areas where more patients rely on Medicare and Medicaid to pay their bills, rather than private insurers. In turn, remaining hospital resources are strained: Emergency room wait times and crowding have increased, often forcing ambulances to be rerouted to another facility due to a lack of hospital beds.

Hospitals in Maryland are facing more acute staffing shortages, particularly among nurses. A 2022 report found that 1 in 4 of the state's nursing positions was vacant, with the highest vacancy rates in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. metro areas. In addition to the nursing shortages plaguing the country as a whole, Maryland is also in the midst of a backlog of license approvals and renewals, exacerbating the situation and keeping travel nurses from entering the equation.

In Maryland and other parts of the country, hospitals, governments, and colleges are trying to close staffing gaps with higher pay for medical workers, increasing health care worker visas, new medical schools, tuition reimbursement programs, and stronger job placement pipelines.

This story features data reporting and writing by Paxtyn Merten and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 20 metros.

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