America is getting older. And we’re not just talking about the age of country itself, but the people. With the Baby Boomer and Generation X groups getting older each day, the country is facing the reality that by 2025, one quarter of the workforce will be above 55. That number has doubled in just 30 years. This aging of workforce means a few things for the country, from political to economic impacts. But perhaps the largest impact is healthcare. Along with the continuing aging of the population, in the past thirty years, average life expectancy has increased by 5.5 years. This means that there are thousands and millions of more people, living longer than ever before. Similarly, 5 million less children die before age five now, compared to thirty years ago. This all means that there are more people living, and more healthcare requirements.
Along with the healthcare statistics of an aging population, health is publicly subsidized in many ways. This happens through millions of dollars being put into Medicare and Medicaid, and tax for employers offering privatized insurance. This and other ongoing support of health insurance and care for people across the country means that healthcare jobs are valued and crucial. The bottom line is that an older, medically concerned country needs more care, and that means more workers. This fast-paced job growth is leaving staffing holes in many health facilities.
Nurses, doctors, medical assistants, mental health clinics, technicians, in-home and patient care; the jobs for medical workers are constantly growing. But patient care isn’t the only area of the medical field that needs more workers. Recently, the growth for administrative health care workers has exploded. From insurance to reception needs, x-ray technicians, phlebotomy workers, nursing specialists and doctors, there are medical jobs for all kinds of workers. With a variety of insurance options and increasing numbers of patients in clinics, these administrative positions are critical to helping patients get their health needs met.
Digital health advancements also requires computer science and IT workers to help the field expand. Developing software programs for scheduling, insurance, and electronic health charts are all critical to advancing the field. If you choose to pursue a healthcare jobs, there are lots of options.
Medical field technicians and specialists can also expect really good total salary amounts, and increasing opportunity for advancement in their healthcare jobs over time.
Today, America has roughly 3 million nurses. This is the largest segment of healthcare jobs, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this isn’t going to be enough. The BLS predicts that there will be 1.2 million vacancies for registered nurses by 2022. A study from Vanderbilt University similarly predicted that by 2025 the nursing shortage will be “more than twice as large as any nurse shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s.” Beyond the aging population of Americans who are in need of healthcare, the industry is also seeing nursing retiring in large amounts. The largest group of RNs currently joined the workforce before 1970. There were limited options for women in the workforce at that time, and now as those nurses come to retirement age, there aren’t enough new nursing candidates to replace them. These employment statistics translate to very real impacts in practice. States across the west have seen hospitals as many as 10-20 nurses short at any given time. Hospitals are resorting to financial incentives for current nurses to take on extra hours to meet needs, or even closing beds when nothing else can be done.
The answer may seem obvious; just train more nursing candidates. But it’s not that simple. Every year, U.S. nursing programs turn away nearly 80,000 qualified applicants due to insufficient numbers of faculty, clinical sites, class space, and budgets. Fortunately, schools like WGU are able to train more nurses than traditional nursing schools because of the online capabilities. Many nursing students find that they are able to get the training they need, and do it faster, by using an online education option. WGU offers many nursing education options like BSN pre-licensure programs to become an RN, as well as BSN and MSN graduate programs for current nurses to help them be more qualified to move up, teach future nurses, and grow their own career. As nurse practitioners (NPs) work hard become trained, and help train new nurses, they will be able to meet the demand for nurses. If a career in nursing is something you’ve been considering, it’s important to know that the job outlook is amazing. The demand is high and will only continue to grow. Now may be the perfect time to get enrolled and start your training as a nurse.
Nursing isn't the only medical field profession that’s seeing major shortage. Data also suggests that by 2030, the US could be short roughly 120,000 physicians as well. The facts are all really similar to that of nursing; an aging population requires more doctors, but part of that aging population are the country’s current physicians. As they retire, and the demand for doctors only increases as the country ages, the shortage continues to grow larger. Current legislation is in place to increase the number of residency slots across the country, and gain more federal support for educating physicians. Some medical schools like Columbia University are also looking to entice more students to apply to medical school by adding scholarships and easing the financial burden of becoming a doctor. The BLS finds that even now, the job outlook for physicians is growing faster than average jobs, with the pay well above average. As the demand grows, hopefully colleges and medical schools will find ways to continue to attract candidates to a medical career path.
Along with the shortage of doctors and nurses, digital health trends are rising, creating more healthcare jobs in the digital field. Experts believe that by 2025, the digital healthcare sector will grow to a $536 billion dollar industry. The development of technology like wearables, telehealth, AI, and electronic health records are all part of this boom.
Wearables have the potential to help patients and technicians be immediately alerted to issues with their health. For diabetes or heart patients, these wearables could be life saving. As the country continues to age, wearable health monitors can help elderly individuals be aware of their health, and alert family or medical technicians if a fall, stroke, or heart attack happens. This could save lives and provide valuable information to doctors before a patient arrives at the hospital. As the technology continues to grow, the aging population could be safer and healthier as a result.
Telehealth is a similarly booming technology, and has the potential to save time and money for the healthcare industry. Telehealth allows patients to consult with doctors without leaving the comfort of their home. A simple video call allows doctors or nursing technicians and patients to talk, and even have visuals about health problems. Doctors are able to easily diagnose, or let patients know they’ll need to actually come in for further tests. For follow-up visits or simple questions, telehealth is an easy way for patients to get in contact with health professionals. In a booming healthcare sector, this technology saves everyone time, and can end up saving the healthcare industry money.
AI is another segment of the healthcare industry that is growing at a rapid rate. From robot assisted surgery to image diagnosis, artificial intelligence can help with the nursing and physician shortage. While a complete replacement of medical technicians is extremely unlikely, the right AI software can help do elements of their job and speed up the process. More patients will be able to be seen and helped as AI takes over some of the route elements of the job. The need and growth of AI software opens even more jobs in the information technology branch of medicine. When it comes to the healthcare industry, all kinds of jobs are going to be needed as the demand grows.
If healthcare is a career field that interests you, now is the time to jump in! Whether you’re interested fully in patient care, or prefer the administrative or technological elements, there is room for absolutely everyone. Get started on a career in healthcare by enrolling in one of the many online degree programs at WGU.