Healthcare Jobs: Far More Than White Coats

Who works in healthcare, the one industry that came through the Great Recession without a blemish? The answer may surprise you. But let’s weed out the obvious professions first.

If you have a medical degree, you may be up against the easiest job search on the planet, and not just because anyone spending that much time and money on an education has mapped out their options long before graduation.

Down the ladder one significant notch, are an array of nursing jobs that includes nurse practitioners, case managers, clinical specialists, nurse anesthesiologists, cardiac rehabilitation nurse and a full spectrum of options that cover the 26 medical specialties recognized by the American Medical Association.

Again, most nurses have at least a hunch what their job options are before they graduate. Typically, however, a nurse is on a fast-track to find work as soon as they qualify to do so, which means many nurses become standard staff nurses at hospitals and clinics and work in the field for a few years before deciding to specialize or advance to gain higher status jobs and better paychecks.

Still, the options are obvious. But many people don’t stop to consider that healthcare jobs are far more diversified than men and women in white coats and nurses wearing happy-face pajama tops when they go to work.

What if I said that working in an industrial kitchen could be considered healthcare work? I mean this with utmost sincerity. In a recent hospital stay for a heat condition, the cafeteria workers who might have only a high school diploma to their names, wheeled meals to patients and presented them with cards to fill for their next meals. Was this healthcare work or just work as a kitchen wench?

For my money, these workers were an integral part of my healthcare at the hospital. The right meal and the correct level of patience and understanding as I struggled to select meals under a sudden, strict new regimen for me certainly left me with no doubt. These were cafeteria specialists, all the more noteworthy, because I thought they all did an excellent job.

Here are a few other healthcare support staffing options you might not consider if you only believe hospitals are staffed by doctors and nurses.

Medical Editor/writer: Many hospitals churn out a great deal of “copy” each year from instruction for post-discharge care to explanations of hospital bills to brochures describing treatment options or advertising for a particular clinic. Medical writing courses online and at local colleges help acclimate writers to the rigors and specialized vocabularies of a hospital setting.

Pharmaceutical/medical sales representative: Hospitals are businesses that purchase medical apparatuses, pharmaceutical products, office supplies, cleaning products, a variety of medical instruments and everything in between from tanks of oxygen to light bulbs. Some of these sales jobs are more specialized than others, but there is certainly a difference between selling widgets and selling pharmaceuticals.

Technical Specialties: Working side by side with doctors and nurses are a wide array of specialists that usually require a year or two – and more – of college. These include anesthesiologists, speech pathologists, physical therapists, recreational therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, sonographers, dieticians, radiologists and substance abuse counselors.

Some of the more famous technicians, or course, are first responders, ambulance drivers and paramedics

Technical Sub-Specialties: In this day and age, as heathcare demand expands, it must be noted that many of the technician specialists now have assistant positions, which, of course, require less formal education, but have the benefit of providing real-time experience on the job, which may make it easier to afford school and easier to get into a program. With some years on the job as an assistant, you can assess whether a career is right for you.

For that reason alone, these sub-specialists jobs are a very important link in the workforce, helping to bring good workers into healthcare, much as teaching aid positions provide experience for many future teachers.

Sub-specialist jobs include radiologists assistants, physician assistants, physical therapy assistants and even dental hygienists. Home health aids, personal care aids and others.

Pay for these jobs can be very surprising. Dental hygienists earn about $71,100 per year in a field that is growing by leaps and bounds. One U.S. News report says field is expected to grow by 33 percent by 2022, which means salaries will rise, as demand for skilled workers outstrips the number of qualified workers.

Diagnostic sonographers earn about $66,400 on average in 2013. It is anticipated there will be a call for 27,000 more sonographers by 2022.

Even the field of medical secretary is expected to have a hurtling growth rate by 2022 with an expectation tat 36 percent more will be working as medical secretaries within the next eight years.

And, that’s right, even dietician/nutritionists (median pay: $55,240, according to the Labor Department) have assistants. You might think you just have a kitchen job, but if you pay attention, it could be the entry point to a career in healthcare.