Posted by: Peggy Salvatore, www.healthsystemed.com
*hat tip and a wink to Connie Francis
When your friends are out of work, it is a recession. When you are out of work, it is a depression. When you and your friends work in healthcare or information technology - or both – it’s boom times.
Check the headlines over the past few weeks, and you’ll find that healthcare at 17% of the US economy is still a functioning engine of growth. Yes, national unemployment hovers around 10%, and in some places better or worse (Utah about 4% and Nevada about 15%). But employment isn’t as much about geography as it is about your industry. In automobile manufacturing? Not so much. In nursing? Oh, yeah.
There is a shortage of healthcare workers from physicians down to the guy who switches out the bedpans. And there is a coming shortage in IT workers who are needed to transform healthcare from paper to electronic records.
Believe it or not, in places where people are practically bumming smokes because they are so broke, there are hospitals and employment agencies trying to find workers. Here’s a sample of the kind of issues we face to keep care coming to patients and to keep the system running smoothly as it transitions to electronic records:
• [A] survey by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) found that more than 60% of hospital IT executives believe tech staffing shortages, which some estimate to be a shortfall of 50,000 qualified IT professionals, will definitely or possibly affect their chances to achieve meaningful use. (HITECHWatch, October 29, 2010)
- [T]he unemployment rate for tech professionals (4.3 percent) is far lower than the overall national average (9.6 percent) (CIO Insight, October 28, 2010)
- Atlanta sponsored an all-day Health IT summit on November 9 to “[provide] an opportunity to showcase Georgia's healthcare IT market and career growth in one of the country's fastest growing industries.” http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/georgia-puts-spotlight-health-it-jobs
- Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC sponsored a hiring event on November 5 to “audition” people for 90 temporary technology training positions internally to help with their IT implementation (Healthcare IT News, October 28, 2010)
- According to statistics from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), by 2020, demand is set to outstrip supply in several specialties, with nonprimary care specialties in general projected to experience a shortage of 62,400 doctors. (Association of American Medical Colleges website, https://www.aamc.org/newsroom/newsreleases/2010/150570/100930.html)
We are all in some way –either personally or people we know - touched by the serious economic downturn in the US. The causes are myriad and the solutions will not be simple or quick – it took a lot of missteps over a long period of time to dig a hole this deep. Recovery will be a long slog from here to economic health. In the meantime, a lot of people – families, businesses – have suffered losses and some may never return to where they were before the meltdown.
However, there are always pockets of growth in any economy and some places where it is good to be during a storm. Not everyone failed in the Great Depression. In fact, some fortunes were made by people with insight and tenacity. That is as true today as it was in the 1930s.
Healthcare and especially transforming the healthcare industry to a fully online and data-driven enterprise is a massive task. It will take an army of a million more workers to transform the army of more than 10 million currently employed in the healthcare sector. In this field we are in today, there is room for everybody. We need all the talents and resources we can muster to put together a rational system that works.
That means the need is great for systems designers, data and research gurus, dedicated providers, tenacious administrators and creative leaders all along the spectrum to move the entire industry into the future. The jobless rate in the US today is a sad statistic that belies the plight of many individuals; but there are jobs out there looking for workers and healthcare is one of the places to be today during this storm.
This is the first in a series of blogs on the worker shortage in healthcare and health IT. What is the health job market like in your area? Are you hiring or laying off? Drop us a response; we’d like to hear your thoughts on healthcare employment.