COVID Crisis Making Psychiatrist and Psychologist Jobs Plentiful

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased people’s anxiety and depressive symptoms, raising demand for permanent practitioners and locum tenens to fill behavioral health jobs.

“Since COVID hit, there’s been a shift in our need for psychology coverage all over the United States,” said Ashley Whitmore, a senior recruiting consultant with Staff Care. “Psychiatrists are still in demand, and that will never go away.”

Kéary Gauff, who is also a senior recruiting consultant in behavioral health with Staff Care, anticipates that the need for psychiatrists and psychologists will grow even more over the next six to 12 months as people continue to struggle with pandemic-related issues.

“People are stressed out and short-tempered,” Gauff said. “I’m starting to see a rise in the need for counseling and therapy.” 

The data on how people are coping

The American Psychiatric Association recently released a public opinion poll, which found 43 percent said the pandemic had a serious effect on their mental health and 41 percent of Americans indicating they are more anxious than last year. 

“Across different research sources, we are seeing a pattern emerging,” said Vaile Wright, PhD, senior director for health care innovation the American Psychological Association (APA). “Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Kaiser Family Foundation and from us at APA are all seeing increases in depression, anxiety, trauma-related symptoms, alcohol intake and suicidality.”

The amount of anxiety and mental health concerns are similar across multiple studies. In April 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 41.5 percent of people were suffering from anxiety or a depressive disorder. And the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in February that 41 percent of American adults were experiencing an anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder, up from 11 percent in 2019.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reported in November 2020 that 29 percent of its members surveyed reported an increase in patients since the pandemic began. Seventy-four percent indicated patients were experiencing anxiety, 60 percent depressive disorders and 51 percent trauma and stress-related disorders.

“With COVID, people are staying home and not dealing well,” Whitmore said. “They need therapy and someone to talk to.”

Crisis stoking greater demand for behavioral health jobs

The increase in people dealing with anxiety and depression and a decrease in stigma associated with seeking mental health help have led to organizations bringing on more mental health professionals.

Younger people seem more willing to seek treatment than older adults, but cost remains a barrier to care, Wright said.

For instance, when the census increased at the Montefiore Behavioral Health Center Westchester Square, an outpatient facility in Bronx, New York, they hired more mental health clinicians to meet the growing demand of people in crisis, reported Adam McGahee, DNP, MBA, associate clinical director of the treatment facility. 

The country has been dealing with a shortage of psychiatrists for a number of years. In 2018, the National Council Medical Director Institute updated a report about the shortage of psychiatrists and how that has limited access to care.

Merritt Hawkins’ “2020 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives and the Impact of COVID-19” reported psychiatry has been the second most requested physician search for the past five years. The authors also stated, “Maintaining and expanding access to psychiatric services will be one of the primary challenges facing healthcare policy makers and providers in the post-COVID-19 environment.

Access to care has been a long-standing problem, Wright said. She encourages prevention measures to reduce the demand for services.

“We do not have enough providers for the traditional 60-minute psychotherapy sessions,” Wright said. “And not everyone can afford it.”

Telemedicine altering psychology and psychiatry jobs

Remote telemedicine visits can help to meet the demand for behavioral health services, and have been a necessity in some cases during the pandemic.

Ninety-six percent of psychologists surveyed by the APA indicated they were treating patients remotely, with 64 percent exclusively providing telemedical care. A third of the APA respondents said they were treating patients who live in a different state than where they practice.

“Telemedicine demand has grown for both psychiatry and psychology,” Whitmore said. “A lot of our providers love it.”

Wright added that some insurers waved co-pays during the pandemic and others offered reduced fees, leading to a greater use of telemedicine, which will continue if patients continue to request televisits and if copays and other measures continue to be waived. 

Locum tenens providers filling the need

Whitmore anticipates the demand for psychology and psychiatry jobs will grow. She reported some behavioral medicine providers are leaving their private practices to eliminate overhead and earn more as a locum tenens psychologist or locum tenens psychiatrist.

Other psychologists and psychiatrists work locum tenens part-time while retaining a practice or a full-time behavioral health job, Gauff said. 

Whitmore also reported an increased need for behavioral health providers who are comfortable dealing with addictions and locum tenens psychiatrists who can prescribe buprenorphine (Suboxone), and for clinicians who can work with children and adolescents.

Wright also noted an increased need among children and adolescents. She encouraged the industry to find ways to reach people where they are at.

Staff Care assists with licensing psychologists and psychiatrists in states needing locum tenens providers, and deploys creative measures to recruit new candidates. 

“I do not see the demand going away,” Whitmore said.  

STAFF CARE has locum psychiatry jobs and locum psychology jobs across the U.S. 

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