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.
In Maryland, a statewide focus on getting patients out of hospitals and improving quality of care has led to an increased need for nurses on all levels, said Shannon Idzik, associate dean for the doctor of nursing practice program at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.
“We need more registered nurses working in primary care,” she said. “Nurses are really the best people to be doing that. That’s what our training is in, prevention.”
But while Maryland is on the right track in focusing on quality over number of patients, the state still has a long way to go. Training more nurses, and getting them more education could help promote better health outcomes.
Health care professions appeal to a lot of people because the industry offers positions with varying levels of training and well as upward mobility, said Dr. Sheldon Burns of Edina Family Physicians in Minnesota.
“In the past, physicians had been wearing many hats and basically running their own show,” Burns said Burns. 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.
Variety of jobs
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.
Idzik wants to see more nurses pursue higher degrees to help improve the quality of care. That includes nurses with associate degrees working for a bachelor’s degree, and higher.
“There’s lots of research, particularly in hospital settings, that hospitals with higher levels of baccalaureate health education have better outcomes,” she said. “When you look at (registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing) programs, much of the focus on that is really looking at the population piece, adding that community health focus.”
To achieve that the University of Maryland has focused on recruiting registered nurses out of Maryland hospitals. It has also added programs to satellite locations, including the University of Maryland at Shady Grove.
Recruiting nurses locally has an added benefit. When the nurses graduate, they often return to the communities they came from originally. That they know the area best can have better outcomes for local health, Idzik said.
High stress levels
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.”
Jennifer Sharpe writes for BridgeTower Media.