As a nation, Americans are facing serious health challenges. Heart disease remains the number-one cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., and a host of other conditions pose a great risk — including cancer, diabetes, respiratory diseases and stroke.

In fact, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), life expectancy in the U.S. has decreased for the second year in a row — the first time this has happened since the 1960s. This is due in part to deaths related to the opioid crisis.

Needless to say, healthcare workers are in high demand. But it’s not easy to fill those roles. The nursing shortage in particular has received lots of attention, and with good reason as the U.S. is due to face a shortage of 95,000 nursing assistants and almost 30,000 nurse practitioners by 2025. But it’s not only nurses we need more of; there is also an expected shortage of 11,000 doctors and surgeons by the same year.

To identify the hardest-to-fill healthcare roles, we compiled a list based on the percentage of jobs unfilled after two months (Job postings can be open for longer than 60 days for different reasons; in this case Indeed uses this measure as a proxy for hiring difficulty.) It turns out that aside from nurses, many of the hardest-to-fill healthcare roles are quite advanced, with the majority being doctor roles. And of the two nursing roles that appear on the list, one is quite advanced as well — nurse practitioners can actually prescribe medicine.

What are the hardest-to-fill healthcare jobs?

The table below shows the hardest-to-fill roles based on the percentage of jobs still open after 60 days. For all of the jobs listed here, over half of posted positions are open after 60 days. And the top three hardest-to-fill jobs had a whopping two thirds of roles still open after 60 days. This means that for every 100 jobs posted, only 33 are filled two months later.

Let’s dig into the details.

The 15 hardest-to-fill healthcare jobs and the percentage of these jobs that remain unfilled longer than 60 days.
This table ranks the 15 hardest-to-fill healthcare jobs, based on the percentage of healthcare jobs that remain unfilled longer than 60 days in the US from June to August 2018: 1) Pulmonologist, 65.9% open after 60 days, 2) Rheumatologist, 65.6% open after 60 days, 3) Nurse Practitioner, 59.7% open after 60 days, 4) Agency Nurse, 57.8% open after 60 days, 5) Cardiologist, 55.3% open after 60 days, 6) Radiologist, 55.3% open after 60 days, 7) Emergency Medicine Physician, 55.2% open after 60 days, 8) Psychiatrist, 54.8% open after 60 days, 9) Vascular Surgeon, 53.7% open after 60 days, 10) Urologist, 533.6% open after 60 days, 11) Dermatologist, 53.3% open after 60 days, 12) Otolaryngologist, 52.5% open after 60 days, 13) Senior Medical Director, 51.9% open after 60 days, 14) Neurologist, 51.3% open after 60 days, 15) Nocturnist, 50.5% open after 60 days

Pulmonologists are the hardest to find

Coming in at the number-one hardest- to-fill job is pulmonologist, with 65.9% of job postings still open after 60 days. Pulmonologists are doctors who work on the respiratory system, treating conditions like chronic lower respiratory diseases, which are the number-four leading cause of death in the U.S.

The second hardest-to-fill job is rheumatologist. These doctors treat musculoskeletal disease and autoimmune conditions, commonly called rheumatic diseases. Some examples of conditions treated by rheumatologists are arthritis and gout. Almost two thirds (65.6%) of these jobs are open after 60 days.

Nursing roles still difficult to fill

At numbers three and four, we see nursing roles. At number three is nurse practitioner, with 59.7% of jobs still open after 60 days. Nurse practitioners have more responsibilities than registered nurses and can prescribe medicine. Number-four agency nurses work a more flexible schedule, and 57.8% of these roles are still open after 60 days.

One of the biggest challenges facing the field of nursing right now is that many will soon retire. This represents not only a shortage of people to do the job but also a large loss of institutional knowledge.

More cardiologists need to treat heart disease

Number five is cardiologist, doctors who treat conditions of the heart and blood vessels. Of all postings for this job, 55.3% are still open after 60 days. Vascular surgeons, who operate on arteries and veins, come in at number nine, with 53.7% of roles open after 60 days. Doctors specializing in cardiology are needed to treat heart disease, which is the number-one cause of death for men and women in America, accounting for almost a quarter of all deaths.

Radiologists are number six on our list, with 55.3% of jobs open after 60 days. These are doctors who use medical imaging techniques like X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) and ultrasounds to diagnose patients. These techniques are frequently used in cancer diagnosis and treatment — the second-leading cause of death in the U.S.

Emergency medical physicians, also known as ER doctors, come in at number seven, with 55.2% of jobs open after 60 days. These doctors treat patients who need immediate attention when they come to the emergency room. With accidents the number-three cause of death in the U.S., ER doctors are vital to saving lives.

What can be done?

Some hospitals are going to great lengths to attract nursing talent — some offer bonuses, tuition coverage and even housing to nurses willing to work for them. But something as simple as opening up recruitment efforts to other states may help as well.

Recent research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that in 2030, though some states are predicted to have serious shortages of nurses (California, Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina), others may have a significant excess supply of nurses (Florida, Ohio, Virginia and New York).

As for doctors, supporting work–life balance can make a huge difference to candidates — 92% of young doctors say that it is important to them. Making sure your compensation packages are up to date and that you are using the latest technology to manage medical records can also help attract talent.

As we see more nurses and doctors enter the workforce, Indeed will continue to track which healthcare roles are hardest to fill. The better healthcare employers are able to fill those roles, the healthier we will all be.


To create this list, we calculated the percentage of postings per job title that are open more than 60 days in the US from June–August 2018 and the average salaries for each job title.