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Employment Trends in the Health Care Sector

The job outlook and employment trends in the U.S. health care system remain extremely promising and strong. Nearly every person will have some type of contact with the health care system in their lives, from the time of birth in a delivery room, to incidental emergency room needs as a child, to preventive primary care services as an adult, to the last days of life that are sometimes spent in a nursing home or inpatient hospice facility.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013a), health care is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, currently employing over 18 million workers. Of this 18 million, women represent nearly 80 percent of the overall health care workforce. Although a health care career has many opportunities for employment and financial reward, it also takes place in a setting where workers face several on-the-job hazards, including needlestick injuries, back injuries, latex allergies, patient-on-provider violence, fatigue, and stress. Facilities have already taken many steps to prevent or reduce health care workers' exposure to these hazards; nevertheless, many health care workers continue to experience injuries and illnesses in the workplace (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).

In terms of wages, physicians and surgeons rank among the highest of all occupations. In 2012, physicians who practice in the primary care setting received total median annual compensation of $220,942, while physicians who practice in medical specialties received total median annual compensation of $396,233. The overall employment of physicians and surgeons is expected to increase by 18 percent from the year 2012 to the year 2022, a growth rate predicted to be faster than the average for all occupations. The job prospects are also very promising for primary care and specialist physicians who are willing to set up their practices in either rural or low-income areas, because these areas typically have difficulties in attracting physicians (BLS, 2014).

Many health care providers will continue to see a promising job outlook (Figure 3.1). The health care occupations with the largest projected employment increases include RNs, personal and home care aides, home health aides, nurse's aides, medical assistants, and LPNs. Nurses, in particular, will enjoy a high employment rate into the future years, both within and outside the traditional health care settings. With 2.5 million nurses already employed, even more nurses, as well as aides and support personnel, are necessary to support the continued needs of the health care system (BLS, 2013d).

Overall, the employment trend in the health care professions is expected to continue to be positive in the upcoming years (Figure 3.2). This strong and steady growth in employment is expected to be driven by the many technological advances in patient care that will allow a greater number of injuries and illnesses to be treated, which will lessen both morbidity and mortality rates. An increase in the emphasis placed on primary care drives these expected employment numbers up as well, as the number of professionals now needed to support the primary care setting has increased in recent years. In addition, advances in technology and innovations in pharmaceuticals are allowing people to live longer than ever before.

Employment and Earnings in Selected Health Care Practitioner and Health Care Support Occupations

Figure 3.1 Employment and Earnings in Selected Health Care Practitioner and Health Care Support Occupations

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013d.

Projected Change in Total Employment, Selected Health Care Occupations

Figure 3.2 Projected Change in Total Employment, Selected Health Care Occupations

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013d.

The aging of the baby boomer generation comes into play here, as it causes the need for a variety of health care personnel in both the generalist and the specialty care areas. The numbers of people needing nursing care and therapies is also greater than ever before, which translates to a positive job trend for health care professionals all across the disciplines.

The current health care environment involves the work of many types of skilled individuals, knowledgeable in their particular disciplines and (optimally) working together in teams to fulfill the needs of each patient as an individual. Given the diversity of education, skills, and scope of practice among these health care providers, it is imperative that they work collaboratively in treating a patient Each health care professional is a link in the overall chain of care and is to be valued for the knowledge and contributions he or she provides.

It is to be hoped that current and future health care workers are enlightened over time to realize that today s health care professions depend for success on a patient-centered team environment where the training and experiences of each team member have an additive effect, to the overall benefit of the patients who are seeking care. The importance of collaboration and communication among health care providers at all levels cannot be emphasized enough, as this has been identified as a critical point in preventing medical errors that cause both patient harm and patient deaths. The job outlook for providers of health care continues to be promising in all fields; those who are or will be employed in the fields presented in this chapter will enjoy a wide variety of settings and opportunities for utilizing their education and skills.



advanced practice registered nurse- psychiatric mental health (APRN-PMH)

art, dance, and music therapists


certified athletic trainer

certified nursing assistant (CNA)

dental assistant

dental hygienist


diagnostic medical sonographer

doctor of medicine (MD)

doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO)

horticultural therapist

licensed practical nurse (LPN)

nuclear medicine technologist

nurse practitioner (NP)

occupational therapist


physical therapist

physician assistant (PA)

primary care physician


psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMH-NP)



radiation therapist

radiologic technician (RT)

registered nurse (RN)

registered nurse-psychiatric mental health (RN-PMH)

social worker

speech-language pathologist

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