SPECIAL ADVERTSING SECTION: Health & Science Career Advice

Healthcare reform

Sunday, January 2, 2011; 9:09 AM

Impact on Healthcare Professions

Healthcare reform will undoubtedly have a major impact on the people of the United States. But what will it mean for those in healthcare professions? Good news, say those in the industry.

"Forty-four million people will suddenly be getting health insurance," said Jane Kapustin, PhD, RN, CRNP, assistant dean for master's studies at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. "That will mean a lot of new patients coming into the healthcare system for the first time."

Among those who will need additional healthcare services are the aging baby boomers. By the year 2020, more than 1 million 65-and-older citizens will need nursing care, home care, lab work and more, said Diane Barberesi, coordinator of Clinical Education Outreach for Health Sciences at Montgomery College.

A lot of new patients means a lot of jobs for healthcare professionals. Employment of registered nurses, for example, is predicted to grow by 23 percent through 2016, faster than the average for all other jobs.

Assuming the effects of the recession will have lessened by then, that forecast includes 581,000 new job openings for registered nurses and 276,000 new jobs for such positions as nursing aides, orderlies and attendants. In Virginia alone, estimates are that there will be a shortage of 10,000 to 12,000 registered nurses by 2017 and as many as 20,000 to 30,000 by 2028.

The reform bill invests in nursing education and retention as well as many other forward-thinking initiatives that are geared toward fostering and building the nursing and physician workforce of the future, said Samuel Siebu, manager of recruitment programs at Holy Cross Hospital. These include numerous grants, for example, that are specifically geared toward associate and bachelors' degrees, as well as advanced education in the nursing field and furthering diversity in the workforce. Healthcare reform also supports the National Nurse Service Corps, which repays 60 percent of nursing student loans in exchange for at least two years of practice at a healthcare institution that has a critical shortage of registered nurses.

With advances in electronic patient charting that require some level of computer skill, nurses and other healthcare providers are challenged to advance themselves and remain at the cutting edge of technology.

"All of these provisions to our healthcare reform are vitally important in the face of an increasing demand for healthcare providers, especially experienced registered nurses and primary care physicians," Siebu continued. "Over time, this could create a win-win situation, improved patient access, and an increase in the pool of available healthcare professionals to meet the increasing demand for patient care providers."

Allied health fields will also need workers because of the increased number of patients. These jobs, requiring four years or less of college, include physician assistants, occupational therapists, biomedical technicians, geriatric nursing assistants, medical secretaries, central sterile technicians (as well as critical care and emergency department nurses), diagnostic coders, respiratory care practitioners, cardiac sonographers, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that about one of every four new jobs created in the United States through 2018 will be in healthcare and social assistance┬┐which means that as a career option, healthcare has a promising future. Or as Janet Clarke, program director of Workforce Development and Continuing Education at Montgomery College, stated: "If you want to catch a fish, go where there are a lot of fish."

This special advertising section was written by Carol Sorgen, a freelance writer, in conjunction with The Washington Post Special Sections Department. The production of this supplement did not involve The Washington Post news or editorial staff.

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