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Health care jobs expected to increase in region

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"Where we're struggling a little bit is finding experienced RNs," she said. "When someone is retiring, it's not always a new grad who is best to replace them. Sometimes you want someone with experience."

Columbia-based MedStar Health also has a need for highly educated nurses, along with radiology technicians and lab workers, among other roles, said spokeswoman Jean Hitchcock.

Many positions require more education than in the past, and the supply of qualified graduates hasn't kept pace.

"It's not just that you need a talented workforce, you need an extremely smart and constantly learning workforce," Hitchcock said. "And we're all competing for the same talent pool."

That leads to shortages.

The Georgetown study estimates that from 2010 to 2020, there will be 268,150 health-related job openings across Maryland, Virginia and the District.

"Already there are some shortages in some areas. Primary care gets a lot of attention, but there are other fields as well," said Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute."When more people are seeking health care, an existing network gets stretched."

Another variable that several experts say is difficult to quantify will be the impact of the Affordable Care Act and its controversial individual mandate that was upheld by the Supreme Court last week.

Dorn said demand for health-care services will only increase as the law brings insurance coverage to millions more Americans.

Those who have coverage have been shown to seek medical attention more regularly than those who don't, he said.

"The reform law will increase demand for health services without question, and it will spend more money on health-care services, which will increase employment," Dorn said.

But measures within the law, as well as industry practices, aim to reduce health-care costs through more effective treatment and preventive care.

"There are going to be a lot of greater efforts than previously to slow the growth of spending, but I don't think anyone expects spending levels to fall," said Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "It's just a question of how quickly they go up."

Information from: The Washington Post.

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