Health care remains hottest career field

2013-06-02T00:00:00Z Health care remains hottest career fieldLouisa Murzyn BusINess Contributor
June 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

An obvious pattern has developed in Indiana’s health care industry: people get hired.

The industry’s track record isn’t a recent phenomenon and has been predictable, says Patrick Bankston, Associate Dean and Director of Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest.

“This is not a new discovery that all of the business indicators show the health care industry is the fastest growing in the country and the state,” he says.

Even with nearly 9 percent of Hoosiers out of work, the health sciences are a bright spot in a job market trying to shift into gear. In 2012, Indiana health care employment rose by 338,000 jobs.

Health care industries have grown by more than 10 percent since 2006, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Professionals agree with the Affordable Care Act on the horizon, newly insured people will demand even more medical care and the needs will become even greater.

“What this means to graduates is that they will have no trouble getting jobs,” Bankston says. “IUN is positioned to be a place that can train a full complement of professionals. We have a freshmen-to-physician experience. You can come here and in eight years walk across the stage as a doctor.”

The DWD publishes the Hoosier Hot 50 Jobs, which is a list of the 50 fastest-growing, high-wage jobs of the future. The top 10 include included six careers in health care.

The list is designed as tool to help all ages identify skills for the job market and to help them find rewarding careers with the best opportunities for growth.

Baby boomers, reform shapes hiring

Bankston cites the needs of aging baby boomers, vacancies created by retiring medical professionals and the ACA as among the reasons for the increased demand in health care.

Millions of Americans are expected to flood doctors’ offices, clinics and hospitals as they gain coverage come Jan. 1, 2014. “It’s going to be a game changer,” says Ted Herndon, office manager at Great Lakes Orthopedics, in St. John.

The ACA will change how many pay for medical treatments and it will reshape the industry, Bankston says. “Medicine will be trying to accomplish the twin goals of providing the best care possible to the most people at the same time making sure the cots are reasonable."

More people will have insurance but the result during the transition will be a strain on practices because more services and treatments are going to be covered by insurance, both private and Medicare/Medicaid.

“The demand is going to be there once everything is sorted out,” Bankston says. “The bottom line is it will and these are going to be well-paying professions and the demand is going to be high.”

Doctors, nurses in demand

The top four jobs on the DWD’s Hot Job list are doctor, registered nurse, physical therapist and dental hygienist.

Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported job growth in health care was outpacing 2011, accounting for one out of every five jobs created. Of those, 75 percent are in nursing.

Bankston said the shortage of doctors will partially be offset by other professionals seeing patients in an ancillary role appropriate to their training. In fact, providers are increasingly turning to the already short supply of nurses and physician assistants.

Hernden said while it take many years to become a doctor, it doesn’t take much time to train medium-skill jobs or mid-level workers and support staff such as assistants and technicians.

According to WorkOne, Indiana needs these workers and predicts a current and future shortage. In 2009, more than half of all jobs in Indiana were middle-skill jobs representing more than 1.5 million workers. Half of projected job openings through 2016 will be in these high-paying jobs.

“We’re in even more demand because of the reform,” says Tim Williams, a PA at Great Lakes Orthopedics. “Doctors aren’t hiring more doctors because they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford it in the long run. We’re a cheaper alternative. We come out quicker from school and can be trained on the job.”

The changing environment gives orthopedic surgeon Keith Pitchford pause when giving advice to students because the industry is in transition and tuitions are high. “Five years ago, I’d say don’t worry about it,” he says. “But how do you unbury yourself from the debt?

“When you start tearing this all apart and see the depth of the shifting sands it’s hard to give solid advice. There’s so much unknown. It’s not unreasonable to take the middle ground. You incur very little debt and can go back to medical school later. The cream always rises to the top so if want to become a physician in a couple of years, things will be sorted out.”

Physical therapy shortage

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, unemployment remains remarkably low in that industry, at just 0.2 unemployment rate.

It is not the quickest career to get into but once training is completed jobs are plentiful and salaries are healthy. There is a trend towards a six-year clinical doctorate which is also creating a worker shortage in the short term, says Tony Ferracani, Vice President of Human Resources for Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, in Munster.

It has taken Community Healthcare System longer to search and recruit, and paid signing bonuses are not unusual. No new schools have been created to offset the increased demand so there is no additional capacity on the supply side. They have also taken a regional, multi-state when looking for new hires.

As the population ages and gets more chronic conditions they are crucial to help people functioning.

Aging baby boomers who are staying active or those who require rehabilitation due to heart attacks, strokes, and mobility related injuries. “People in their sixties are still jogging and exercising and are having joint replacements,” Ferracani says. “Everybody is bionic.”

Open wide, brush inside

Currently, hygienists enjoy starting salaries of $50,000, a relatively lucrative position with a two-year degree. Although the DWD forecasts jobs to grow 3.9 percent through 2020, IU Northwest’s Juanita Robinson said graduates are more likely to find jobs in Illinois than in Indiana because residents are losing dental insurance.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the job outlook nationally to grow at 38 percent, much faster than average. The ACA will bring dental insurance to about 3 million children by 2018, according to the American Dental Association.

Lynn Matalin, a hygienist for 22 years, said a flexible schedule is a distinctive feature of this job. The BLS reports that 62 percent work part time. Dentists often hire hygienists to work only a few days a week so many work for more than one dentist.

Matalin emphasized compassion, attention to detail and interpersonal skills. “It helps to have a nice smile since we represent wellness,” she says.

“The salary is good and I like the fact that you can work as little or as much as you want. I enjoy educating patients and helping them get healthy. It’s a great field to get into and I have no regrets at all about this choice as a career.”

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