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The Next Decade In Healthcare Employment

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To get to the bottom of today’s subject, it’s important to understand the special generation that is Baby Boomers. They grew up in what one might consider privileged times: post-war era with greater affluence, better education, and a gleam of hope. As a cohort, Baby Boomers were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to the era in which they arrived. They grew up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time.

A few decades down the read, Baby Boomers have turned grey. Many are in a state of denial regarding their own aging and death. Economists in the US  go as far as to characterize them as “leaving an economic burden” on their children for their retirement and care.

To consider the entire picture, Baby Boomers are also behind a boom in healthcare jobs creation. In fact, 2018 is the first year in history where healthcare has surpassed manufacturing and retail to become the largest source of jobs in the U.S.

Figure 1- Major job creations players in the USA – Data compiled from the U.S. Federal Reserve Economic Database (FRED)

 

Additionally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics  projects healthcare to create jobs significantly faster than the rest of the economy over the next decade. But, graying of the nation aside, what else drives such a growth?

Hidden Drivers of the Boom

One of the hidden forces of the healthcare employment boom is public subsidization.

Each year, Americans indirectly spends hundreds of billions of dollars on healthcare benefits for government employees and veterans. Besides, the US government also subsidizes private insurance by providing tax breaks for employers that sponsor health care.

Such public support makes healthcare jobs inherently immune to downturns and crises. As a matter of fact, healthcare jobs count kept increasing even during the Great Recession. (Looking back at our introductory Figure 1, it’s visible that the trend keeps increasing in a nearly linear way).

Furthermore, healthcare has somehow managed to escape the doom of automation, globalization and technology. These forces have considerably affected manufacturing and retail by offshoring factories, replacing human labor with robotic arms, switching to automated business processes and mirroring retail stores with online “Amazone”s, “Ebay”s, and “Alibaba”s.

Healthcare is inherently local and is one of few industries to get expensive when combined technology. As long as robots are not replacing doctors, we will mostly keep observing the same pattern for the next decade.

Healthcare Staffing Trends

The substantial growth in healthcare employments jobs will not actually happen in hospitals. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects occupations such as pharmacy technicians and home care aides to grow the most.

This is due to the efforts to control costs and the increasing popularity of outpatient clinics. Hence, many healthcare facilities will lower staffing levels to reduce labor costs.

As a consequence, home healthcare jobs are projected to observe a 54% growth over the next decade. It will add approximately 500,000 more new jobs between 2016 and 2026 according to the same source.

Furthermore, office based jobs of health practitioners (physicians, dentists, etc.) are projected to grow by 21%, adding more than 844,000 jobs over the same period of time.

Here is a projected list of the fastest growing jobs (to-be) in healthcare over the next decade (source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

  • Home health aides (46.7%)

  • Personal care aides (37.4%)

  • Physician assistants (37.4%)

  • Nurse practitioners (36.0%)

  • Physical therapist assistants (30.8%)

  • Medical assistants (29.1%)

  • Physical therapist aides (29.1%)

  • Occupational therapy assistants (28.9%)

  • Genetic counselors (28.3%)

  • Physical therapists (25.0%)

  • Occupational therapy aides (24.7%)

  • Phlebotomists (24.4%)

  • Massage therapists (23.5%)

  • Respiratory therapists (23.4%)

  • Diagnostic medical sonographers (23.2%)

     

New Skills To Acquire For The New Healthcare Industry

We have already established that the way technology affects healthcare is somehow different than retail or manufacturing when it comes to pricing. However, it is quite similar from an education and skills standpoint. The needed skills are evolving rapidly to get the hang of new tools and evolving procedures. This prompted prospective students and professionals alike to align to the booming market.

In the college scene, Healthcare-IT focused programs are increasingly sought after. Asked about the prospects of healthcare IT students, Katie Waldo, Sr. Campus Recruiter, at Cerner, Indiana University explains:

“The demand for IT skills in health care organizations is quickly on the rise. We have seen explosive growth in this industry, and (with it) applications to our programs. In part, (this is) due to recent government driven incentive programs for electronic medical record systems in healthcare organizations.”

In the job market, a damaging gap has emerged between the industry’s expectations (skills, salaries) and job seekers’ perceptions. On the employers’ side, candidates are perceived to be lacking in education and failing to stay current with medical and technological advances. On the job seekers’ side, strict job requirements deter them from applying to above the entry-level positions.

For example, Mayo clinic has put forth great effort into hiring, training, developing, engaging and retaining its staff. Their physician turnover is less than 2%.

 

Here is how they do it:

  • Training every member of its personnel for at least 20hrs per year from technologists to heart and brain surgeons.

  • Providing room for personal career development by having people rotate in positions and giving a push to the ones that show great leadership potential.

  • Perks and benefits vary from a fitness classes, massages and subsidized lunches to offering $3,000 of financial assistance and scholarships for dependents.

     

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