Every industry undergoes a slow process of evolution which drastically changes its landscape every couple of generations. Healthcare workers know that their industry is no different. What used to typify the average healthcare employment just 20 years ago has drastically changed for most workers. In fact, some would scarcely recognize the job description they had when they first started if compared to the actual work they do today. So what’s driving this evolution? There are many different factors.
Aging Population >
Thanks to modern technological advancements and a general societal shift to more healthy living, people are living longer than they ever have. Statistics show that the life expectancy of the average American in 2010 is about 78 years of age. Compare that to the early 1900s when average life expectancy was just over 47. Just since 2006, average life expectancy among American males has increased by almost 2 years.
With the aging population also comes the need to address chronic illnesses which were not as prevalent a few generations ago. Dealing with such chronic illnesses has opened the doors for all sorts of new employment within the healthcare industry. Jobs like visiting nurses, home health aides, elderly-focused therapists, and the like. The aging population has also fueled an increase in other, more traditional healthcare jobs, especially in terms of nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.
Another factor driving the evolution of the healthcare industry and its jobs is developing technologies. For example, where it was virtually impossible to effectively treat cancer 50 years ago, mortality rates among certain types of cancer patients have fallen dramatically as therapies and technologies advance. But all of these therapies and technologies need skilled workers to implement, thus changing the landscape for workers involved in those fields.
Developing technologies have also given rise to the viability of more ancient healthcare practices such as acupuncture and holistic healing. One example is chiropractic medicine which was largely assumed to be quackery right up through the late 1970s and into the early 1980s. The medical community has since realized the value of chiropractic and it is now largely embraced within the healthcare family.
Evolving Healthcare Jobs
To keep up with the evolution of the healthcare industry, healthcare jobs have also had to evolve. Workers just coming in the industry have had to be trained in newer and more innovative methods to keep them current with the state of modern medicine. This has resulted in the development of more specialized areas of education and training, as well as a larger availability of such training. The one downside is the fact that it’s also resulted in a severe shortage of workers.
As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, plenty of healthcare jobs should be available to any and all who want them. It remains to be seen whether or not the aging population will put more stress on the system that it can handle. Hopefully there will be enough workers in place to meet patient needs when the time comes.