It is early April 2020 at the time of this writing and the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of releasing its grip on America. Meanwhile, the healthcare sector has been turned on its head. The news is filled with conflicting reports concerning healthcare jobs. One report says healthcare jobs are booming; another says they are cratering. So which is it?
If nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis is a lesson in how to read the news. It’s not enough to look at headlines and assume they tell the whole story. They rarely do. In fact, headlines serve the purpose of enticing people to read. They are purposely attention grabbing for that very reason. If we simply read the headlines and move on, we aren’t getting even a fraction of the story.
This dilemma is easily illustrated in two recent headlines. The first is the headline of a Forbes story from contributor H.V. MacArthur. Her headline states: “Healthcare Jobs Are Booming: Why It Could Be Your Next Career Move”.
Contrast that to a headline from a Modern Healthcare piece published just two days earlier. That piece, from the Associated Press, came with the headline “Healthcare jobs are a mounting casualty of the coronavirus crisis”. Which headline do you believe? Actually, both are true.
According to the good people at Health Jobs Nationwide, the truth of each headline is directly related to the types of jobs being referenced. The unfortunate use of the term ‘healthcare jobs’ in both headlines paints a confusing picture. Yet being more specific would have created a headline too long to fit comfortably in a limited amount of space. Thus, writers expect readers to dig into their articles to get more details.
Where They Are Booming
The Forbes piece seems to be written from a coronavirus-agnostic viewpoint. It barely mentions the crisis at all. To the extent that it does, McArthur talks about nonclinical positions that don’t require a ton of education and experience. She specifically mentions jobs like medical coding, medical billing, back-office support, etc.
Though MacArthur is correct in her assertions, there is a bigger point being missed here: there are some clinical positions that are in high demand right now. Think emergency room doctors and nurse practitioners. Think registered nurses and respiratory therapists.
Those healthcare jobs that are directly related to treating COVID-19 patients are actually booming. Hospitals and clinics cannot hire people fast enough. Recruiting agencies are desperately looking for qualified clinicians to staff telemedicine platforms.
Where They Are Cratering
The other side of the healthcare jobs coin relates to procedures and treatments deemed nonessential. Take elective surgery, for example. Hospitals have pretty much shut down all elective procedures in anticipation of having the concentrate more resources on treating COVID-19 patients. If you are hoping for knee replacement surgery, plan on waiting a while.
Where there are no knee replacement surgeries, there is very little need for orthopedic surgeons or nurse anesthetists. Where there are fewer elective surgeries, there is a lower demand for physical therapists. It really is a domino scenario. One domino falls and the rest follow.
The challenge for clinicians is deciding what to do in the interim. They could choose to change their scope of practice and pitch in where they can, but they don’t know when they will be called back to their normal jobs. There’s no point in even trying to change the scope of practice if you could be called back in a couple of weeks.
So that’s where we are with healthcare jobs. Things are not as black-and-white as the headlines make them seem.