trends_flag Research and Planning r_and_p Department of Workforce Services State of Wyoming

Publication Examines Wyoming’s Health Care Workforce Needs

Excerpted from Health Care Needs in Wyoming: Advancing the Study

See Related Tables and Figures

Approximately one-fourth of the people living in Wyoming in 2010 were between the ages of 46 and 64. How will Wyoming’s health care workforce meet the needs of an aging baby boom generation? This question is addressed in several ways in Health Care Workforce Needs in Wyoming: Advancing the Study, a new publication from the Research & Planning (R&P) section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.

In 2011, licensing data were provided to R&P by the professional licensing boards that license many of Wyoming’s health care occupations. These data were then combined with several existing datasets, including the Wyoming Wage Records database, demographic data, the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, and Workers’ Compensation tax files. By linking all of these datasets, R&P is able to better understand licensed health care professionals working in Wyoming.

By examining this new information, along with existing resources, R&P is able to examine the impacts that an aging population, rapidly changing technology, and national health care initiatives have on Wyoming’s health care workforce. Health Care Workforce Needs in Wyoming contains detailed information on demographics, existing state and local health care shortages, projected demand and health care shortages, and commuting impacts in health care.

Demographics and Health Care

Table 1

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 26.6% of all persons living in Wyoming in 2010 were baby boomers between the ages of 46 and 64. This percentage was even higher in many smaller, rural counties, such as Platte (31.5%), Hot Springs (30.9%), Crook (30.6%), and Johnson (29.9%) counties (see Table 1). Patients age 65 and older are more likely to have at least one chronic illness that requires medical management, such as diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease.

This may pose a problem in Wyoming’s many rural areas, where health care needs are provided by small critical access hospitals that generally provide emergency services, outpatient care, and limited in-patient services. In rural areas, older citizens who require specialized care may not receive the services they need without traveling to large urban centers, such as Denver, CO; Salt Lake City, UT; or Billings, MT.

These small rural hospitals may also be slower to adapt to changing technologies in health care, such as telemedicine and electronic medical records, than larger urban hospitals (Jones, Parker, Ahearn, Mishra, & Variyam, 2009). Additionally, electronic medical records systems can be cost prohibitive to set up and maintain for smaller hospitals (Vogel, 2011).

State and Local Health Care Shortages

Table 2

Wyoming currently has a shortage of workers in several health care occupations that are critical to long-term care (see Table 2). For example, if Wyoming uses the ratio of licensed health care workers to population served found in the nation as a whole as the standard, then Wyoming currently has substantial shortages in home health aides (-746); licensed practical & licensed vocational nurses (-575); nursing, psychiatric, & home health aides (-502); and medical assistants (-445). Health Care Workforce Needs in Wyoming also includes a table that examines these types of shortages for each of Wyoming’s sub-state regions.

Projected Demand and Health Care Shortages

Figure 1

The advanced age of Wyoming’s population will have a major impact on the need for workers in health care-related occupations over the next 10 years. As people age, they will require more health care; additionally, health care professionals are aging with the rest of the population. For example, 59.6% of all registered nurses working in Wyoming during third quarter 2010 were 45 or older (see Figure 1). As more people employed in health care occupations reach the traditional retirement age of 65, their departure from Wyoming’s workforce will create a need to fill vacant jobs. Where will Wyoming find enough workers to address this need?

Table 3

Wyoming’s higher learning institutions are not providing enough graduates to fill the projected average annual openings for many health care occupations (see Table 3). For example, 444 people completed the necessary degree program to become registered nurses in 2009. However, the latest occupational projections from R&P show an estimated 665 annual openings for registered nurses in Wyoming from 2010 to 2020. This is a baseline projection; the full impacts of the boom generation, national health care initiatives, and changing technology have not yet been identified.

Commuting Impacts on Health Care

Table 4

By linking the data provided by Wyoming’s professional licensing boards to existing datasets, R&P is able to compare the number of health care professionals licensed in Wyoming to those actually working in Wyoming during any given quarter. This can be seen in Table 4, which shows that there were 33,736 selected health care professionals licensed in Wyoming in 2010Q3. Of those, 19,092 (56.6%) worked in Wyoming during any quarter from 2009Q2 to 2010Q3, while 14,438 (42.8%) worked in Wyoming for the entire period of 2009Q2 to 2010Q3.

Table 5

R&P is able to use this data to examine licensed health care occupations at various levels of detail, including age, gender, turnover, average commuting distance, and wages. Table 5 shows various statistics for selected licensed professionals working in Wyoming in 2010Q3. For example, physical therapists had an average commuting distance of 17.5 miles, compared to chiropractors, who had an average commuting distance of 6.3 miles. The average (mean) wage for dentists was $35,765 during this quarter, while the average (mean) wage for radiation technologists during 2010Q3 was $12,615.

Health Care Workforce Needs in Wyoming: Advancing the Study is available online at Print copies are available by contacting Research & Planning at (307) 473-3807. Additional detailed tables for each health care occupation analyzed can be found at





Jones, C.A., Parker, T.S., Ahearn, M., Mishra, A.K., Variyam, J.N. (2009, August). Health status and health care access of farm and rural populations. Economic Information Bulletin 54430, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Retrieved September 11, 2011, from

Vogel, J. (2011, June). Electronic records mandate strains rural hospitals. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved September 11, 2011, from