Behavioral health demands and levels of unmet needs are increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet there is a projected shortage of behavioral health providers by 2030 in select areas of the United States.1-3 Current literature highlights a multitude of factors that are influencing the supply of behavioral health providers, such as the number of retiring providers, low wages, policies that support providers (e.g., parity in reimbursement, loan repayment programs, expanded scopes of practice), and the availability of training.1,4,5 However, there is still a need to better understand the factors that influence behavioral health providers to both enter and exit the behavioral health workforce, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Assessing these various factors will help support the recruitment and retention of behavioral health providers in order to increase the supply and accessibility of these providers.
This study aims to assess the factors influencing behavioral health providers entry to and exit from the behavioral health workforce in order to better estimate and enhance the availability of behavioral health providers.
In this report, we attempt to aggregate data from a diverse range of sources to contribute to solutions on why behavioral health practitioners stay or leave the workforce. Our results from four sources demonstrate that specific provider types will likely need tailored solutions to address reasons for entering, staying, or leaving the behavioral health workforce. From the IPEDS survey, we show that the number and proportion of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants enrolled in training programs and awarded a degree have remained relatively stable between 2019 and 2020 with more physicians enrolled in training programs and awarded degrees than their nurse practitioner and physician assistant peers. Data from AAPA demonstrate that small proportions of the physician assistant workforce works in addiction or psychiatric subspecialties, and few have plans to move to or from these specialties. Data from the APA annual member survey provide insights on reasons psychiatrist no longer practice. One of the top 5 reasons psychiatrists are leaving the workforce is burnout.