drawing of books  Module 1 – Unit 1:  Reading Practice

The Fastest Growing Professions in Health Care

Think About It   Which jobs in health care do you think are growing the fastest in the U.S.? Why? Make a list of the five fastest growing jobs in health care in the U.S. After reading the article, compare your list with the information provided.

The Five Fastest Growing Jobs

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The Fastest Growing Professions in Health Care

Do you know what the fastest growing jobs in health care are? Many people may think that the answer is nursing jobs. It is true that there will be a great need for more nurses in the future. In fact, studies show that there will be a shortage of about 800,000 nurses by the year 2020. However, there is another area of health care where the jobs are growing even faster. There will be an even greater need for allied health professionals in the future. About 60% of the U.S. health care force is made up of allied professionals, a total of about six million professionals.

So what do allied health professionals do? They assist physicians and other health care professionals, but they do different kinds of jobs. Some provide specialized services; some work directly with patients, and others run the high-tech machines used in health care today. There are two general categories of allied health professionals: technicians and assistants, and therapists and technologists. The first group usually performs procedures, such as taking X-rays, giving massage, or testing blood, depending on the profession. The latter group has more training because these health care professionals need to evaluate patients, diagnose problems, and develop treatment plans.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2004, about half of the thirty fastest growing occupations for all jobs in the U.S. are in the allied health professions. Some of the jobs on this list include medical records and health information technicians, physical therapist aides and assistants, occupational therapist aides and assistants, dental assistants, respiratory therapists, and physician assistants. (For a complete list of the thirty fastest growing jobs in the U.S., go to www.bls.gov/emp/emptab3.htm.)

Why is there a shortage of allied health professionals? One reason is that the U.S. population is aging, so there is an increase in the need for health care and services. Second, the allied health workforce is also getting older, and people in these jobs are retiring or moving up to other positions. Finally, there are currently not enough educational programs to train the number of allied health professionals needed. For example, in 2004 in California, there were hundreds of job openings for medical technologists, but there were only nine training programs. Only about fifty people graduated each year!

This is good news for people who want to enter the health care workforce or retrain in another area of health care. More people will need health care because the population is getting older. In addition, people working in the allied health field will retire. This means that in the future there will be more job openings in allied health care, and salaries for these jobs will continue to rise.

Adapted from:

  • Kimball, B., O’Neil, E. Healthcare’s Human Crisis: The American Nursing Shortage. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. April, 2002.
  • Centering On…The Majority of the Health Care Workforce. <www.alliedhealthcouncilnc.org/news/2002archive/11-05-2002.html.> Retrieved on 7/15/04.
  • Shi, L. and Singh, D.A. 2003. Delivering Health Care in America: A Systems Approach. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc.
  • Centering On… The Stealth Health Care Crisis. <www.futurehealth.ucsf.edu>. Retrieved on 7/15/04.

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Questions About Reading

  1. What is the fastest growing field in health care today? What is another field in health care that is growing very fast?
  2. What are some examples of allied health jobs? Name at least five.
  3. What do allied health professionals do? Give examples.
  4. What are three reasons that there will not be enough allied health professionals in the near future?
  5. What kinds of skills do you think allied health professionals need?

Vocabulary Practice

Complete the sentences below using the words and phrases in the box. Use each word or phrase only once.

a shortage
an increase
are made up of
currently

  high-tech
  move up
  retrain

the latter
to rise
workforce

  1. Most ESL classes ______________________ students from many countries and language backgrounds.
  2. Some hospitals in the Bay Area have had to limit the number of patients that can stay there because there is _________________________ of nurses in California.
  3. Some health experts predicted __________________________ in the number of West Nile infections in the summer of 2004.
  4. Many people in the U.S. change careers in their lifetime. They often need to ________________________ because they need new skills to do a different job.
  5. The health care _________________________ needs to grow in the future, so there will be enough trained professionals to take care of the growing elderly population.
  6. Workers often need advanced computer skills for ___________________ jobs.
  7. The cost of health care insurance continues _______________________, and many working families can’t afford insurance.
  8. A nurse who is trained as an LVN can go back to school to get another license. Then he or she can _______________________ to the position of R.N.
  9. Poor eating habits and smoking can both cause serious health problems. ______________________ can lead to lung cancer.
  10. There is ________________________ a great need for technicians and assistants, but there are not enough educational programs to train them.