The medical field is bursting with opportunity. So much so, in fact, that it constitutes a growing healthcare crisis for all of us. Physicians and nurses come to mind first, especially in light of dramatic shortages of both. However, a supporting cast of professionals, including emergency medical technicians, certified nursing assistants, clinical laboratory technicians, and medical imaging technicians, is also struggling with a fraction of the staffing levels needed to keep this industry at its most efficient and effective.
The shortages may be grim from society's perspective, but there's no denying that they open multiple doors for healthcare jobseekers. The Department of Labor projects a 26 percent increase in the number of healthcare jobs between now and 2008. Fully half of the 30 occupations with the fastest projected growth rate are health related.
Wendy Boatright, recruiting manager for Code Blue Staffing Solutions is on the front lines. "There's a huge need to fill medical positions. Healthcare has really changed a lot. Agencies have been fighting over skilled candidates. Our offices (in Daly City and Sacramento) are experiencing the medical field's boom from Connecticut to Northern California, and I don't think it's going to slow down anytime soon."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment in health practitioners' offices and in nursing and personal care facilities is expected to grow faster than in most other industries. Dire employee shortages require many healthcare providers to spend months locating qualified personnel. A survey by the American Hospital Association found that 70 percent of surveyed hospitals reported a lack of qualified candidates.
America's graying demographics are changing medical care. According to the Administration on Aging, persons age 65 and over numbered 33.9 million in 1996, and will reach 39.4 million in 2010 and 53.2 million in 2020. Today, the average 65-year-old can expect to live an additional 17.7 years. This aging population will place increased demands on medical care networks, creating new jobs in rehabilitation, health and fitness, wellness, imaging technologies, home health care, nutrition, new diagnostic services, and prevention.
A Healthcare Insider
As a waitress at an assisted living facility, Andrea Flemmen enjoyed helping the residents who were elderly and often frail. When, as a single mom, she decided she needed a better career, she realized how much she would miss working with senior citizens. She struck on a solution: "Becoming a certified nursing assistant seemed a natural fit for me, and when you're certified you can go just about anywhere."
Flemmen's lack of previous medical experience at age 31 didn't prevent her from enrolling in a six-week course for certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Once certified, she had no trouble finding work, and has been employed at a Rancho Cordova skilled nursing facility for just over two years.
Asked if she intends to move on to the role of licensed vocational nurse (LVN), Flemmen replies, "From CNA, there are many steps I could take. Right now, I'm happy with where my training has gotten me, and I'm satisfied with my job. I wouldn't mind making more money, for sure, but becoming an LVN would take a few more years of training. I'll really have to think out my next step. I may want to get into a healthcare management position in the long run."
To bolster California's healthcare employee numbers and help convince CNAs like Flemmen to take the next step, a statewide caregiver training initiative awards money to various community colleges and vocational schools to implement training programs for CNAs, and to focus on career-ladder upgrades. CNAs, earning any-where from $9 to $12 per hour in the Sacramento area, can sign up for a two-week program to become a home health assistant, earning $10 to 12.50 per hour, or an acute care nursing assistant, earning $10.50 to $13.50 per hour. From there, they can pursue a two-year program to the LVN position, earning $18 per hour and more.
The list of licensed or certified career titles in the medical field seems endless, but here are a few of the most prom- inent positions, with typical hourly pay in Sacramento and the Central Valley. Bay Area rates are usually higher:
- Pharm D. (pharmacist with a doctorate) - $43/hour
- Pharmacy Technician - $18-20/hour
- Radiological Technician - $18-20/hour
- Nuclear Medicine Technician - up to $32/hour
- Certified Nursing Assistant - $9-12/hour
- Physical Therapist - up to $32/hour
- Physical Therapy Assistants - average of $25/hour
A broader view of possible medical industry roles would include: clinical laboratory technician, EEG and EKG technician, surgical technician, dental hygienist, dental laboratory technician, dispensing optician, ophthalmic laboratory technician, emergency medical technician, health information technician, dietitian and nutritionist, respiratory therapist, and speech-language pathologists and audiologist.
The education required for these positions varies greatly, from associate's and bachelor's degrees and graduate work in medical technology, one of the biological sciences, or chem- istry, to vocational school programs that may take a matter of weeks. As in any field, however, furthering your education will also further your career opportunities. Medical positions in California are certified and licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services. For the best chance of meeting particular job requirements, research the details as you plan your education, whether you're still in school or returning for a more focused education.
Education providers should be able to supply information about the kinds of jobs obtained by graduates, the length of time the program has been in operation, instructional facilities, and faculty qualifications.
Boatright notes that personal characteristics that serve any medical position well are interpersonal and communication skills and good analytical judgment. She adds, "With healthcare shortages expected to continue into the next few years, the ability to work well under pressure and pay close attention to detail is critical to accurate patient care."
For several decades to come, there will be a critical need for medical care professionals. Specific needs may evolve with progressing technology, aging demographics, and the changing treatments of disease. Still, hands-on healthcare will provide nearly endless career opportunities for the foreseeable future.
For more information on medical careers, check out these websites:
Calhealth.org - The home page for the California Healthcare Association, a source of news and contacts in the field.
Doctorsjobs.org, mddirect.com, mdjobs.com - Three sites specializing in job openings for doctors.
Healthcarejobstore.com - Find health care jobs including nurse practitioner, medical director, emergency physician, pharmacist, research associate, paramedic, etc.
HealthcareSource.com - provides job searching, resume posting and links to resources such as seminars, articles and job hunting tips.
HealthCareerWeb.com - a part of CareerWeb.com, provides job searching and resume posting for all healthcare fields.
Hospitaljobsonline.com - Boasts over 26,000 jobs posted on the site by hospitals, healthcare companies, staffing and travel agencies, and recruitment firms.
H Monster - myh.monster.com, Monster.com's healthcare careers website, provides career information and listings for all healthcare fields.
Medbulletin.com - provides job and community information and direct access to medical employers, recruiters.
MedZilla.com - provides job listings, articles, forums and resume posting for all healthcare professionals.
Panpjobs.com/np.htm - Provides placements for pharmacists, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.