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  • Extended PT Workforce Projections Include Scenarios Ranging From Shortage to Oversupply

    While there are plenty of variables that could lead to different outcomes over the coming years, the latest APTA models of future supply and demand for physical therapists (PTs) include a first: the possibility of an oversupply of PTs by 2025. Whether that particular scenario plays out will depend largely on the rate at which PTs leave the workforce between now and then.

    The latest projections, now posted on APTA's Physical Therapy Workforce webpage, run a limited number of variables through 3 different models of PT annual attrition rates between 2015 and 2025: 3.5%, 2.5%, and 1.5%--rates that were used in projections dating back to 2011. The 3 models are used because there are no studies that have established a definitive attrition rate for PTs.

    Plugging in those rates, the 2015 model anticipates that there will be a nationwide shortage of 18,350 PTs by 2025 if attrition occurs at a 3.5% rate. That shortage flips to a 736-PT surplus should the attrition rate occur at 2.5%, and grows to a surplus of 21,494 PTs at the 1.5% rate.

    The latest projection figures continue a general trend toward a predicted shrinking shortage of PTs that has surfaced over the past 2-3 years. The 2013 model included a shortage of 27,822 PTs at the 3.5% rate by 2020; that shortage dropped to 26,969 in 2014 under the 3.5% rate. Similarly, the 2013 model using an attrition rate of 1.5% predicted a 2020 PT shortage of 1,530, but in 2014, that estimate had declined to 606. The latest report pushes those trends out another 5 years, to 2025.

    The model has its limits: it does not factor in the impact of shifting demographics—such as the aging of the baby boomer generation—into its demand calculations, nor does it account for regional variables in demand for PTs. Also not included in the model: possible variations in supply and demand according to types of PT practice.

    Besides attrition, several other projections affect the supply-and-demand scenarios. The model anticipates an annual 4% growth rate in PT graduates, a 1% National Physical Therapy Exam failure rate, an annual addition of 535 internationally trained PTs entering the workforce, and a constant rate of 85% of all PTs being employed full time, with the remaining 15% being employed part time at an average of 24 hours per week.

    While an increase in the number of individuals with health insurance did provide some offset to the trend toward a surplus, expectations are for a levelling-off of that increase over the coming years.

    Comments

    • Who is studying PTA employment trends, and working to understand why certain states have a much lower PTA utilization rate in relation to PT utilization rates? A relatively high PT:PTA ratio is a highly inefficient treatment delivery option, and, with high compensation rates, imposes an expensive burden on our Healthcare system. I look forward to you response. Thank you.

      Posted by M. Vince Moore on 6/2/2016 12:04 AM

    • Where is the research on PTA projections? Looking forward to my 20+ years of membership dues as a PTA being used to support the profession, PTs and PTAs. Thank you.

      Posted by Jane L Stroede on 6/4/2016 7:19 PM

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