Healthcare Workforce

Workforce Basics

One in eight Connecticut employees works in healthcare. It is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the state as demand for healthcare is increasing. In general, healthcare jobs are well-paid, but most require extensive education. There are nine schools of nursing in Connecticut, and three medical schools. All Connecticut healthcare workers are licensed by the state Department of Public Health. The state has identified shortages of nurses, certified nursing assistants, technicians, long-term care, home healthcare, and social workers to address behavioral health needs. In addition, Connecticut’s healthcare workforce does not reflect Connecticut’s population in race and ethnicity. The state has developed a strategic plan and devoted resources to addressing gaps in Connecticut’s healthcare workforce.

Workforce Deeper Dive

How many healthcare workers does Connecticut have?

Source: Labor Market Information, Educational/Health Services Employment, CT Dept of Labor, accessed 7/16/2024

As of May 2024, one in eight Connecticut workers (218,900) were employed in health care, according to the state Department of Labor. Healthcare jobs are among the fastest growing in our state. Between 2020 and 2030, total health diagnosing and treating practitioner employment is expected to grow 11%, and health technologists and technician employment are predicted to rise 7%. Also, between 2020 and 2030, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are expected to grow by 48% and 30%, respectively. Openings for nursing assistants are expected to grow by 2,509. Total wages in Healthcare and Social Assistance grew 8.9% or $1.3 billion, faster than any other sector, between June 2019 and June 2022.

What types of clinicians work in Connecticut? How much do they make?

Nurses are by far the largest class of healthcare workers in Connecticut.

 CT licenses, year end 2023
Registered Nurses79,822
Physical Therapists5,704
Psychologists2,603
Dental Hygienists3,664
Physicians21,879
Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives8,783
Occupational Therapists2,985
Physician Assistants3,858
Licensed Clinical Social Workers9,082
Dentists3,440
 Pharmacists 6,525
Source: CT Department of Public Health, accessed 7/16/2024, https://portal.ct.gov/dph/practitioner-licensing–investigations/plis/licensing-statistics

Registered Nurses coordinate and provide patient care, educate patients and the public about health conditions. They can work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, schools, and home health agencies. In May 2023 Connecticut Registered Nurses’ average annual income was $101,840.

Nurses are educated in vocational programs at community colleges as well as four-year colleges and universities. Twelve Connecticut schools offer a four-year Bachelor’s of Nursing degree, nine offer a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing, and one offers an entry level master’s level program. To become registered as a nurse, applicants must pass the NCLEX exam and apply for registration with Connecticut’s Department of Public Health.

Physicians diagnose and treat health conditions and help patients manage their health issues. Physicians work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and doctor’s offices. Connecticut Physicians’ annual incomes in May 2023 varied from $167,900 for Pediatricians to $392,080 for Surgeons.

Physicians first earn a bachelor’s degree, then attend a medical school for four years. Connecticut has three medical schools – Yale University School of Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and the Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. After graduation, aspiring physicians complete a Medical Residency Program for three to nine years, depending on their specialty. Further training as a Fellow may be necessary for highly specialized fields. Physicians must pass exams from the US Medical Licensing Exams to practice before applying to Connecticut’s Department of Public Health for licenses.

Nurse Practitioners provide healthcare services and coordinate care. They practice in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and practices. Nurse practitioners start their education as nurses but also earn graduate level degrees in their specialty including midwifery, anesthesia, psychiatry, and family medicine. Connecticut Nurse Practitioners’ annual incomes in May 2023 averaged $136,980.

Physician Assistants diagnose and provide care to patients under a physician’s supervision. Physician Assistants earn a master’s degree to qualify, after earning a bachelor’s degree. There are five Connecticut schools that offer Physician Assistant programs. Physician Assistants are certified by passing an exam and  licensure by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Connecticut Physician Assistants’ annual incomes in May 2023 averaged $149,300.

There are also important shifts in practice between caregivers. Researchers find that more outpatient care is being delivered by nurse practitioners and physician assistants and less by doctors over time. The evidence to date finds little difference in quality of care or costs.

A new law in Connecticut allow pharmacists to do much more than dispense prescriptions. Pharmacists are trained and licensed to provide many primary care functions. Under the new law, pharmacists can test and treat for conditions such as flu, COVID and HIV, dispense Narcan to save lives from overdoses, and administer more types of vaccines. The new law gives patients much faster access to basic care.

All healthcare providers are licensed by Connecticut’s Department of Public Health. To look up your physician’s profile click here.

Are there shortages of some clinicians?

Both the US and Connecticut are facing severe shortages in several healthcare professions. The US Health Resources and Services Administration has identified 91 Health Professional Shortage Areas across Connecticut—42 for mental health, 46 for primary care, and 41 for dental services.

Connecticut’s nursing shortage is not due to a lack of eligible applicants. Over 8,000 qualified applicants were denied admission to Connecticut nursing schools in 2020. The shortage of both clinical placements and teaching faculty limit enrollment far below demand.

It has been suggested that making it easier for immigrants to Connecticut who were practicing physicians in their home state to be licensed here would alleviate shortages.

COVID accelerated the workforce crisis, but even before the pandemic, Connecticut needs to add 7,000 workers per year to meet demand, according to the Governor’s Workforce Council. Areas of acute need include nurses, certified nursing assistants, technicians, long-term care, home healthcare, and social workers to address growing behavioral health needs.

The pandemic also led to sharply higher levels of anxiety and depression. Nine in ten Americans believe the nation is facing a mental health emergency. Unfortunately, this increase in demand for care coincides with a pre-existing mental health provider shortage. Connecticut has 42 federally recognized mental health capacity shortage areas. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts strong growth across mental health-related employment.

In addition, Connecticut’s healthcare workforce does not reflect Connecticut’s population in race and ethnicity. Whites are over-represented while Blacks and Hispanics are under-represented among Physicians, Advanced Practice Nurses, Physician Assistants, Registered Nurses, and Dentists.

Who are Community Health Workers?

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are a relatively new category of health worker. CHWs bridge the gaps between medical care and public health. They are connected to communities and patients, helping them navigate the healthcare system. CHWs often come from the same communities as their patients and have lived experience in navigating complex health problems. They can work in diverse settings with many functions including support for newborns and moms, vaccination, linking patients to social services, and coordinating medical care. Certification of CHWs varies across the US. The CT Department of Public Health certifies CHWs in our state.

What is being done to address the shortages?

The Governor’s Workforce Council released a Strategic Plan in 2020 that called for adding 7,000 healthcare workers annually to meet the demand. In response, the legislature passed An Act Expanding Training Programs for Careers in Healthcare in 2022. They also appropriated $35 million over three years to recruit, educate, and employ nurses and social workers in Connecticut. The funding will go to tuition and faculty support as well as connecting healthcare employers with schools to enhance readiness and employment.

Workplace violence is also pulling more clinicians away from direct patient care. A national 2022 survey found that more than two nurses were assaulted each hour. Connecticut nurses are not immune. Nurse researchers are calling for comprehensive federal legislation, staff protection quality metrics, better data monitoring for aggressive events, and improved reporting.

The ACA included some provisions to expand clinical capacity, but they weren’t fully implemented. With increasing shortages and the impact of COVID on providers and burnout, there are calls to develop a national healthcare workforce plan.

Updated July 16, 2024