The Future of Jobs in Health Care

Experts discussed rewards and outlook for health careers.


Health care has, for decades, been a stable and profitable career choice. But health care reform, changes in reimbursement methods, government cuts and hospital debt are predicted to upend the health care economy. Hospitals are cutting costs and shrinking their workforce. Meanwhile, certain fields — such as primary care and nursing — face significant staffing shortages. How will this era of accelerating change impact hiring and career planning? How can someone planning a career in health care anticipate and adapt to these rapid changes?

[View: U.S. News's 100 Best Jobs of 2013.]

To further the conversation and offer a consumers' guide to these issues, U.S. News Health partnered with U.S. News Careers to hold a live Twitter chat about careers in medicine. The chat included Peter McMenamin, senior policy fellow for the American Nurses Association; Lindsey Dunn, editor in chief for Becker's Hospital Review; Adriane Willig, a consultant for Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm and John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm.

Experts discussed the rewards of a medical career, trends in health care employment, why the health field is changing, how it will change and which jobs have the greatest potential for growth. The chat's participants sent 778 tweets during the course of the discussion.

[Read: What the Economy Holds for Health Care Careers.]

Why people choose a career in medicine

U.S. News ranked jobs in medicine among four of the top five careers in its 100 Best Jobs ranking. These jobs meet criteria that includes employment opportunity, good salary, manageable work-life balance and job security. Experts in the chat said most people who choose to go into medicine do so because of their desire to help others and to have an impact. "Most people see [health care] as a calling and because of their desire to help patients," Dunn tweeted.

The money also serves as an impetus. A doctor's average salary is $183,000 a year, and for nurses it is $71,968, according to McMenamin. .

Willig summed it up: "A passion for the mission, desire to make a difference, plus strong job outlook and good salaries."

Factors contributing to changes in health care

The Affordable Care Act, cuts to Medicare, lack of Medicaid expansion in some states and hospital debts are contributing to transformations in hospitals and in the health care delivery model. "Beyond traditional employment," tweeted the American Hospital Association, "hospitals support an additional 10 milllion jobs elsewhere in the economy." Other changes include advances in technology, such as the conversion to electronic health records, and the rise of alternative provider settings, Challenger said. This will require other health care workers, such as nurses, to do more, he said.

Willig added that industry consolidation, executive turnover and retirement also are forcing changes.

How health care delivery will change

To adapt to the changes, health care workers will become more accessible in clinics and alternate settings from a hospital, including schools, retail clinics, workplaces and private homes. Care will increasingly focus on prevention and wellness. "Roles are changing in health care delivery and therefore expectations from patients are being reformed," tweeted Kelly Fernandez, director of social media for the Healthcare Leadership Council.

"Expect to see more team-based care models, which will definitely change job responsibilities," Dunn tweeted.

Experts agreed that health care industry will rely on health providers other than physicians. "The use of mid-level providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants is expected to substantially increase," Mount Sinai Careers tweeted. Dunn predicted that the doctor shortage would be 92,000 by 2020, and that layoffs would continue in the near term. McMenamin tweeted that there would be a "tsunami of RN retirements." The demand for health care would increase, however. McMenamin said hospitals could expect 4 million more patients per year during the next decade.

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