Categorized | Job Hunting

Medical industry workers count on job security and growth

Posted on 27 September 2008

If 24-carat job security and continuous career development build confidence and happiness, today’s elite health care workers have good reason to be jumping for joy. While the U.S. economy teeters on the edge of recession, health care remains an essential and growing area, representing nearly 18 percent of total American business activity. The situation will only get better–for those with the right skills.

It’s in the Numbers
Simple arithmetic explains much of the good news. In its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that between 1998 and 2008, the nation’s population will grow by 23 million. All those new Americans will consume goods and services, heightening demand in nearly every occupation and industry.

Health care will certainly benefit. The report says that the 55-and-over age group will grow the fastest, rising from 26.6 to 30 percent of the population. Because the older population consumes a far larger share of health services than younger people do, the need for more health care jobs will increase. In fact, the very oldest groups–those in their 80s, 90s and beyond–are increasing at the fastest rate of all. These elderly citizens typically require more significant, sustained health services, including hospitalization, than their younger neighbors.

Health care technology seems to be keeping pace with increasing demands. Newer diagnostic approaches, like MRI and ultrasound, can detect the nature of health problems faster, and often less painfully, than older methods. Endoscopic, minimally invasive surgical techniques are widespread and are increasingly performed in outpatient settings. People are able to extend their lives and stay more active into their advanced years through various means:

  • Cardiac bypass surgery
  • Improved care for diabetics and cancer patients
  • A steady parade of new medications

Such progress rests on well-educated, sophisticated, and adaptable health care work forces.

Opportunities Abound in Technology, Nursing
“We are in a growth mode and we have openings in most patient areas,” says Maria Scenna, HR director at the 618-bed Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. According to Scenna, jobs are especially hard to fill in areas such as:

  • Radiology
  • Laboratory technology
  • Mammography
  • Ultrasound
  • Nursing

“There are fewer schools preparing fewer graduates,” Scenna says, “so demand is constant in all these jobs.”

As in hospitals and health facilities elsewhere, technology is the common theme of the most desirable jobs at Hahnemann. Scenna says that her hospital has 2,200 employees in 180 job categories. She estimates that 70-80 percent of these jobs requires technology. The ability to use computers and new technology clearly marks a divide between lower-paying jobs and career areas with real opportunity for job advancement and higher pay.

Marita Zifcak, vice president for human resources at St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, MA, agrees that technology is pervasive and essential in the most attractive job categories. “About three-quarters of our 900 employees have a technological component in their work,” Zifcak says, “and it’s universal in the hardest-to-fill jobs.”

Education is Key
Education is clearly the passport to these desirable jobs. Most require a bachelor’s degree or specialized training and credentials–often both. Fortunately, most hospitals and health organizations will defray a portion of work-related education costs for those who aspire to career advancement. Some cover the entire expense of a degree or certification in exchange for a promise to remain on the job for an agreed-upon time after completing the educational program.

Growing Their Own
Along with helping to foot the bill for outside study courses, many employers are taking a more aggressive, inside approach. “Qualified people are scarce in many fields,” according to Zifcak, “so we often try to grow our own. By advancing people in their careers and giving them new skills, we can address critical job shortages.” She adds that St. Anne’s has been building in-house clinical education capabilities to prepare nurses and technicians for specialty practice. “We especially need nurses in critical care and the emergency department. Internal training helps prepare recent graduates for those settings,” she says.

New job categories are emerging as the business of health care changes. One is the role of the nurse-case manager, who coordinates patient care with managed care contract requirements. Another in-demand job, Zifcak says, is the medical coder, who matches patient medical care records with the payment rates of different managed care companies. These jobs pay well, but require relatively brief training and no degree. Finally, the role of the licensed practical nurse is coming back in vogue. St. Anne’s “just can’t get enough LPNs,” according to Zifcak.

So, those already in the health care field should be assured of a long and prosperous career if they keep up with the latest procedures and technologies. For those just starting out in the health care arena or considering a move to this area, it would be wise to do a little research. By acquiring the skills that are most in demand, these individuals can expect to have a “healthy” career in this noble profession.

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