Skills of Health Care Workers

As you can imagine, all inpatient and outpatient facilities require health care workers at all levels, from administrative, office, and support personnel to the highly skilled scientists and practitioners. Currently well over 5 million people are employed at the scientific and highly skilled levels, and another 1 million support personnel work in the health care industry. As the population ages and the demand for health care increases over the next few years, many more openings will exist for workers of all levels of skill, ability, and education.

Technology advances have also brought about new opportunities for health care workers and will continue to do so far into the future. Imagine, for example, how the advent of MRI and CAT scan technology expanded the opportunities for specialized technologists beyond the realm of simple x-rays. Many new diagnostic and treatment modalities will continue to emerge and with them a wide variety of career opportunities.

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The ever-increasing costs of health care will most likely bring about many changes and reforms in the health care industry that will have an impact on job prospects. Some positions may be eliminated, but many more may be created that cannot be anticipated at this point. The fact is, however, that there will continue to be a high demand for health care workers for many decades to come.

An important advantage to the health care industry is that almost anywhere in the country, you can find a job in health care. Many of the non-skilled positions translate or are easily adaptable to other positions in health care. Many of the skilled professions build upon or represent building blocks to other skilled positions. This is not true for most other career paths.

Many of the skills developed by health care workers also transfer to positions outside of health care. For example, there are eight basic skills employers desire in the ideal employee. Nurses usually possess all eight of these skills and are highly sought after for that reason, especially for positions outside the nursing field. These eight skills are:

  • Leadership/persuasiveness

  • Problem solving

  • Physical stamina

  • Networking skills

  • Teamwork

  • Manual dexterity

  • Initiative

  • Ability to teach others

  • Physical, occupational, and recreation therapists as well as E.M.T.s and paramedics usually possess most, if not all, of these transferable skills. This makes these health care workers highly desirable in other positions as well as in their own realms of health care.

    As community volunteers, health care workers set the bar high, demanding a level of excellence that usually equates to very successful community programs.

    Alert

    The economy, the stability of the local population, changes in health care trends, and government support will all affect the reliability of the data and information you collect. In some instances, we can't even predict all of the types of jobs that will be available and in demand in ten years, but we do know that health care careers will continue to be in high demand because we have a population that is aging and will present a growing need for health care in the future.

    Health care workers and professionals are generally in high demand in rural areas as well as in large metropolises. The exact needs may vary from one area to another, but simple research will give you an idea of the opportunities available where you want to live and work. Classified ads, Internet job search engines, and networking are just three of the easiest ways to determine the current needs in your area.

    There is a wide range of career opportunities in health care. There is a need for administrative support personnel, personal care assistants, practitioners, and diagnosticians, as well as highly skilled scientists who are needed to develop new drugs, treatments, and diagnostics. Some positions will grow at a faster pace than others, but there are really no health care fields that are saturated at this point, and none that are predicted to be in the near future.

    The opportunities for women and minorities in the health care field are wide open, and many more women and minorities are filling openings and attending schools. Medical schools have made concerted efforts to recruit women, and today almost 50 percent of the freshmen entering medical school are women, and over 15 percent are minorities.

    Women especially find themselves turning to health care as a second career. Many pursue nursing or medicine after raising families. Men who are searching for a more meaningful career have begun to turn to nursing and other health care careers as second careers as well, particularly in the aftermath of September 11.

    Economic changes combined with the high cost of medical care have forced changes in the industry. For instance, a physician's time is very costly and valuable. For a physician to spend his time instructing a patient in how to take a medication or in the specifics of a new diagnosis is not cost-effective. The physician's time is better spent assessing and diagnosing. Nurses, and sometimes physician assistants, have assumed the role of instructing patients in medications, diseases, and necessary lifestyle changes.

    Nurse practitioners and physician assistants may be your primary health care practitioners unless your needs extend beyond a wellness or simple-illness exam and treatment. Dental hygienists today have an expanded role in your dental care, and if there is nothing significant to be found at routine teeth-cleaning sessions, you might not even see the dentist.

    Alert

    Many of the lower-paid positions such as nursing and therapy aides are seen as stepping stones to becoming R.N.s, P.T.s, O.T.s, and S.T.s, leaving these positions open to be filled by a new generation of young workers who also aspire to one day become nurses and therapists. This turnover will continue to fuel the need for more workers.

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