There is no doubt there is an increasing need for health care professionals in today’s workforce. People are living longer, and depending more on the health care system as they get older.
That trend is among the reasons why health care jobs dominated U.S. News & World Report’s 100 Best Jobs list of 2017. In fact, 22 of the top 25 and 52 of the 100 best jobs were in health-related fields.
“As we age, our practices age,” said Dr. Sheldon Burns, who has more than 30 years of clinical experience in family practice. Many of the babies that Burns delivered are still patients of his today, along with their parents, plus now they have their own children who need care.
The evolving role of physicians has also played a role in the surge of jobs in health care, because most doctors no longer do it all.
“In the past, physicians had been wearing many hats and basically running their own show,” said Burns, with Edina Family Physicians in Minnesota. This is no longer the norm. Citing the rising costs of health care, plus the impact of managed care on the industry, Burns said physician extenders – such as nurse practitioners or physician assistants – are going to be delivering most of the care to patients.
Dr. Stephen J. Nicholas, director of the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital, concurred.
“Managed care has made other health care professionals, beyond physicians, very important today,” he said.
Nicholas added that physician’s assistants and support staff, such as scribes, are necessary to help physicians meet the challenges that have come with reimbursement changes from insurance companies. There are many difficulties in becoming a physician, including cost of the education, length of training, and the impact the profession can have on work-life balance.
Add to that the infiltration of managed care and the job of being a doctor is not as appealing as it maybe once was, Nicholas said, which could be a reason why the industry around the doctor grows.
Trends in care standards and patient treatment have also affected the need for more jobs and more health care employees.
“The incentive now is to drive patients out of the hospital setting quicker, so we need more staff, such as physical therapists, nurses, and other rehabilitative specialists, to take care of these people once they are home,” Nicholas said.
Health care professions appeal to a lot of people because the industry offers positions with varying levels of training and well as upward mobility, Burns said.
Within the nursing profession, for example, entry-level jobs are available for candidates with an associate degree, which requires only 18-24 months of education. At the top of the hierarchy, the master of science in nursing allows one to be a nurse practitioner or pursue other advanced practice nursing jobs, such as certified nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist. A doctor of nursing practice degree can also be earned. It is common practice in health care professions to continue training, and often obtain higher certifications and degrees, while still working in the industry.
A downside to working in the health care industry is potentially high levels of stress. Dr. Karen Reivich, director of Resilience and Positive Psychology Training Programs for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, noted an industry-wide concern right now with physician burnout.
“The well-being for physicians and other health care providers is not where it needs to be,” she said.
Dr. Shane Connelly, psychology professor and associate director at the Center for Applied Social Research at the University of Oklahoma, said several factors should be taken under consideration when it comes to job satisfaction.
“Not feeling burned out, emotionally exhausted, or constantly stressed at work is important to consider,” she said.
What then makes someone happy, or satisfied, with a job?
“Research has shown a number of things other than money have the potential to promote satisfaction and well-being in the workplace,” Connelly said.
Reivich added that in order to feel job satisfaction, employees need to feel autonomy, a sense that they are making a contribution and high-quality connections to peers in their workplace.
“Data is showing that if there is a culture in the workplace of expressing gratitude, people feel more positive about the environment,” Reivich said. “When people feel that they can use their character strengths at work, that they can bring their best self to work, they report high work well-being.”
Regardless of what jobs are considered the best, the health care professions are not going to be the right fit for everyone.
“Some people are going to have all the attributes that will match with health care,” said Clemson University psychology professor Thomas Britt. “But, if someone’s attributes don’t match with the industry, they will not be happy in the job.”