At a time when job prospects are generally bleak, careers in health care are growing. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates 3.2 million new jobs will be created in health care between 2008 and 2018, largely due to the health care needs of the aging baby boomer population.
What jobs will be available? Discover Rush recently spoke with Lois Kazmier Halstead, PhD, RN, vice provost at Rush University, about opportunities in health care and how to pursue a career in this expanding field.
Q. What are the biggest growth areas in health care?
A. Nursing jobs are expected to increase by a healthy 23 percent over the next eight years, and physician assistant jobs will grow by a whopping 41 percent. Part of this increase is due to the national shortage of primary care physicians, which has created a demand for physician assistants and for nurses with advanced training, such as nurse practitioners.
Because of this demand, the Rush University nurse practitioner program is bursting at the seams, and we began a physician assistant program in June. The new Master of Science program prepares physician assistants to work in primary care or specialties such as orthopedics.
Besides these two fields, we're seeing a lot of growth in jobs for occupational therapists, who treat people of all ages with physical and mental disabilities. And with the need to plan responses to terrorist attacks and other disasters, there are increasing opportunities for people to go into administrative careers in emergency management.
Q. What education does a person need to work in health care?
A. The education needed for a career in health care ranges from associate to doctoral degrees, though the trend is toward more education. For instance, a few years ago, Rush University redesigned its program in audiology from a master's to a doctoral level because Rush could foresee one would soon need a doctorate to practice in the field. Similarly, nurse practitioners currently must have at least a master's degree, but by 2015, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree will be recommended for nurse practitioners. Rush University has had a DNP program since 2005. Rush also recently began offering bachelor's and master's degree programs in respiratory care because of the growing need for therapists in this area, and most job opportunities are for those with at least bachelor's degrees in their fields.
Q. Why does it take more education to be in the health professions?
A. The changes in education and in practice are a response to the increasing depth and breadth of knowledge you need to practice in the health care field. The illnesses we treat are becoming more complex, and the science and technology to treat them are expanding practically by the day.
Q. How would you describe the ideal candidate for a career in health care?
A. Health care practitioners need to be able to balance caring for increasingly sick patients with concern for the bottom line, all the while keeping up with the latest technologies. We need smart people who care.
Lois Kazmier Halstead, PhD, RN, vice provost, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Rush University. She was previously associate dean at the Rush University College of Nursing and has been actively involved in health professions education for many years.
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