As the U.S. population continues to age, job opportunities for healthcare professionals are flourishing.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are in health services, and about 3.5 million new jobs are expected to be created in the healthcare industry by 2012.
Elizabeth Cochran Assistant Administrator, Support Services, Kaiser Permanente LA Medical Center
Security, environmental health, biomedical engineering, and infrastructure. No, not a Department of Defense checklist but just some of the day-to-day responsibilities for Elizabeth Cochran, a 20-year healthcare veteran and former respiratory nurse who oversees departments ranging from materials management and telecommunications to volunteer services and the gift shop. "I get calls on everything from, 'Liz there's a bomb on the corner, they want to evacuate the hospital,' to an employee calling about a mistake on their check," says Ms. Cochran. "It's definitely not a nine-to-five job." Though she admits the pace and stress are challenging, Ms. Cochran says they add a degree of excitement and fulfillment. "It's ... fun because you're helping someone," she says. "I would recommend it for anyone who likes a challenge."
Myrna Aviles Area Recruitment Manager, Kaiser Permanente
Ask Myrna Aviles for an employment outlook and she'll give it to you straight: "There's no shortage of jobs in healthcare right now. If anything there's a shortage of people." At the top of the recruitment most-wanted list, says Ms. Aviles, are Hispanic and bilingual-trained medical personnel, including registered nurses, radiologists, pharmacists, and dieticians to care for a growing Hispanic patient base. The company pursues Hispanic candidates online through sites such as HireDiversity.com and participates in career fairs. Company perks include financial aid for employees who want to continue their education, scholarships for Hispanic students entering physical therapy and nursing, and community-based training to help minority and bilingual candidates qualify for upper-level positions.
Fueling this demand is the retirement of the "baby boomer" generation – expected to increase faster than the total population between 2002 and 2012 – as well as advances in medical technology that are improving survival rates and increasing the need for long-term therapy and care.
"As you go higher on the skill level, there is a shortage of employees and strong competition for recruits among employers," says Myrna Aviles, area recruitment manager for Kaiser Permanente.
Among the most-coveted candidates, according to Ms. Aviles, are Hispanic healthcare professionals who reflect and connect with a growing Hispanic population.
"The patient base we serve is largely Latino, monolingual, or very limited [in English proficiency]. We really need higher-level, bilingual social workers, RNs, registered dieticians – it runs the gamut."
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hispanics make up 9.3 percent of the healthcare workforce, a 28.9 percent increase from 2000. That number is expected to grow as demand for bilingual healthcare professionals increases in densely Hispanic-populated areas of the country.
Recruiters are aggressively targeting professionals with technical training, including radiological technicians, pharmacists, and, especially registered nurses, which are increasingly being tapped for myriad tasks at hospitals.
Although professional healthcare positions require higher levels of training, several companies participate in "grow your own" employee initiatives, including funding for continuing education and certification, promotion from within, and community training programs for bilingual candidates.
The incentives extend into higher education as well, with some colleges offering to waive prerequisites for a nursing degree for candidates with bachelor's degrees in science.
"There are tremendous opportunities and job security in the future for healthcare," says Janice Beuhler, western region chairwoman of the National Association of Healthcare Recruiters. "It's never too late to change careers."