It's hard to find a healthcare career that won't be in demand in the years ahead. Thanks to the increasing medical needs of America's aging baby-boom generation, hospitals, clinics and home healthcare agencies will be strapped to find adequate staffing.
But what if you can't cash in on this opportunity because the sight of blood and syringes leaves you squeamish? No problem. Opportunities abound in the "front office" of healthcare operations, where the messiest things you deal with are coffee spills, tangled telephone cords, and the doctors' handwriting.
Here you will handle a myriad of tasks, like admissions, patient and insurance billing, maintaining and coding records, and transcribing medical data. Hospitals also require custodial help as well as food services personnel.
One of the fastest-growing professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is medical records and health information technician. Job opportunities are expected to grow faster than the average for other professions through 2010 due to the rapid growth in the number of medical tests, treatments and procedures scrutinized by third-party payers, regulators, courts and consumers.
Medical records and health information technicians provide a critical link in delivering quality healthcare by maintaining patients' medical charts and ensuring all forms are complete and the appropriate paperwork is in hand. They also communicate with nurses and physicians to clarify a diagnosis or to get additional information.
Technicians use their knowledge of disease classifications to assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure. The techs then use specialized software to assign a patient to one of several hundred "diagnosis-related groups," or DRG's - which become the basis for how much the hospital will be reimbursed by Medicare or an insurance provider.
Job duties vary with the size of an institution. The larger the operation, the more the staff will specialize in a particular aspect in the process, often working under the direction of a medical records and health information administrator.
While the bulk of this work has traditionally been found at hospitals, the rise of outpatient and off-site care has changed that. Today the greatest job growth is in non-hospital settings: doctor's offices, nursing homes and home health agencies. To enter this field, you typically need an associate's degree from a community college that provides training in the field. Coursework usually includes medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, legal aspects of health information, coding, statistics, database
management, and computer training. Some adult schools also offer related coursework.
Are you a good listener? Do you understand medical terminology? If you do both well, you might consider a job as a medical stenographer. The field is projected to grow faster than the average profession due to the increasing demand for detailed records.
The work can be arduous, requiring a long attention span as you listen to tapes from doctors providing their diagnosis of a patient. Documents produced include discharge summaries, histories, physical-exam and operating-room reports, consultations, autopsies, diagnostic imaging studies and referral letters.
All documents are reviewed by a specialist before becoming a part of the patient's permanent record. By spotting errors or inconsistencies, experienced stenographers can play a key role in helping patients receive proper care.
Technology is transforming the profession. Stenographers can often download files from the Internet, enabling many to work from home. And voice recognition software is making inroads in more simple applications. This, predicts the BLS, will not substantially reduce demand for stenographers since all records still require editing, clarification and verification.
A Rash of Options
Most jobs in health services involve providing clinical services, but there are many occupations performing other functions as well. Numerous management and administrative support personnel keep organizations running smoothly.
The BLS forecasts increasing opportunities in non-specialized healthcare occupations. For example, 15.6 percent job growth is expected in health-services bookkeeping through 2010, while the need for receptionists and information clerks will jump 26.6 percent. Openings for medical secretaries will climb 20 percent, with 12.2 percent growth for general office help, and 9.8 for maintenance and repair workers.
While hospitals might first come to mind as potential employers, the BLS sees most of the growth occurring in other healthcare venues. For example, one-third of the employees in physicians' offices are in office and administrative support positions, such as receptionists and information clerks. The same is true for the offices of other health professionals, like physical therapists, occupational therapists and chiropractors. Other promising places to look include large dental offices, as well as medical and dental labs.
Finally, in addition to providing solid entry-level opportunities, the chances for breaking into the field at the management level are good, according to the BLS. "Although many medical and health services managers have a background in a clinical specialty or training in health services administration," notes the BLS, "some enter these jobs with a general business education."
A welcome prognosis, indeed.
Any search engine (google, yahoo, etc) will give you thousands of hits for jobs in the medical industry. Most medical job sites also list non-medical positions, however, some websites make it easier to find jobs that don't require you to participate in medical procedures. Here are a few to get you started:
- MedCareers.com - Job listings for all types of healthcare careers, including administration, billing and claims processing. Click on "Job Seeker" then on "Search Jobs" for the advanced tools.
- MedicalJobsOnline.com - This website doesn't use keyword searches, so jobseekers must choose a category and then browse all listings. The site also features resume posting and online applications.
- MedJump.com - Job listings and resume posting in the medical industry. Search categories include non-medical positions.