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Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Future of Employment in the Healthcare Industry

by Elizabeth Wallace

Healthcare represents one of the largest industries in the nation and world, one that pulls in just under $2 trillion per year in the United States alone. While both doctors and nurses remain in high demand, opportunities to pursue a career in healthcare with both material and career rewards abound. How has the landscape shifted?

Senior Care

Forty million Americans living today have hit the 65-or-older benchmark, a number that will jump to nearly 90 million by 2050. Healthcare will shift dramatically in order to provide better quantity and quality of care to a graying population, as seniors require more medical care than any other age demographic. Healthcare jobs that include training in geriatric living will make a graduate much more likely to find work in an industry that will soon be overflowing with patients in need. Seniors not only need more medical assistance than younger adults, but also spend more of their finances on healthcare; those over age 75 spend more money on healthcare than anything else besides housing. As such, geriatric physicians, nurses and technicians can find employment more easily and command a higher salary.

Numbers Game

It's a good time to look for work in the healthcare job market. Spending in the healthcare industry has risen from just 5 percent of GDP 50 years ago to nearly 20 percent today, due in part to the growth of insurance and public healthcare options. Those who are considering careers in healthcare can set themselves up for success by taking courses on coding and billing, the process by which physicians receive compensation from private or government healthcare entities. Not everyone has the luxury of quitting their job and going back to school, but more and more universities have set up online course structures to provide 24-7 access to course materials. Those interested in digital coursework in coding and billing can enroll in online universities such as Penn Foster and create a class schedule that fits their personal and professional time demands. These finance-related healthcare career paths will grow by leaps and bounds as both insurance providers and government institutions begin to merge while millions of new Americans sign up for coverage.

Middle of the Road

Traditionally, you had two options for treatment: Visit a doctor at a hospital or have the doctor come to your front door. As medicine evolves, the boundaries between medical facilities and home care increasingly blur. A Nursing Economics study suggested that more than half of all registered nurses do not work in a traditional hospital setting, but rather have more flexibility in location and proximity to a patient. As a career alternative, educational programs prepare nursing students (or other healthcare professionals) to provide care outside the boundaries of traditional locations rather than working shifts in an intensive care unit or emergency room. They can even help healthcare students with training to open up their own clinic or facility.

Elizabeth Wallace - Liz is a former geriatric nurse who blogs about issues affecting seniors' health. She is married with two grown children.