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Health sector growing in county and nationwide

Millions of medical field jobs expected to be added by 2022

Published: Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 11:59 p.m. CDT

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Lauren Purdom-Carr started out as a patient-care technician helping patients and assisting nurses at Centegra Hospital – Woodstock.

The Marengo resident helped patients use the bathroom, checked their blood sugar levels and fed them. The 24-year-old eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps and became an emergency room nurse.

Purdom-Carr is part of the ever-growing health care field, which is expected to add millions of jobs through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As the general population continues to age and live longer, there will be a need for more health care workers and social assistance workers, according to a report the bureau released in December.

There are times Purdom-Carr speaks to hospital technicians about possibly going into nursing.

“There’s so many options as far as being a nurse; you can do anything,” she said. “You can teach, you can work at a school, you can work in many different departments in the hospital. ... There’s a lot to do in nursing.”

The BLS has estimated that 5 million health care and social assistance jobs would be added between 2012 and 2022.

Jobs added by the health care industry are expected to create about a third of the 15.6 million new jobs expected in that 10-year period, the BLS said.

Some of that growth in health care jobs is expected to take place in McHenry County.

Centegra Health System expects to add about 1,000 jobs by 2016 after completing construction of a new hospital in Huntley.

Centegra’s recruiter for nursing Steve Osborne and Vice President of Human Resources Development Berni Szczepanski say they expect to see growth in health care jobs.

“A lot of individuals are using health care, there’s a rush of baby boomers, people retiring and phasing into retirement,” Szczepanski said. “The need is definitely there.”

Osborne runs an annual health career fair for eighth-graders in the county, where students learn about the different jobs in health care, other than doctors and nurses.

The students can learn about dietitian jobs, speech language pathology, physical therapy, medical physicists, medical lab technicians or medical imaging roles, among other positions, he said.

Connie Gustafson is the manager of human resources at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington.

“We’re trying to [determine] what future needs will be, especially as we watch what happens with the [health] exchanges,” Gustafson said.

As hospitals try to determine new ways to more efficiently deliver health care, there is expected to be more demand for nurse practitioners and physician assistants, Gustafson said.

It would “help better manage that patient and the patient population in support of the primary physician,” she said.

Advanced practice nurses also help facilitate special orders for patients or patient transfers overnight, said Cathy Scanlon, a staffing consultant for Good Shepherd.

There also will be a need for more nurses to help with follow-up medical care after people are discharged from the hospital, such as making sure they are able to get and take their medications, Scanlon said.

She added the aging baby boomer population is seeking more preventative care or is beginning to need even more regular care.

“There’s more focus on preventative care and better management of chronic health conditions so they don’t get worse,” she said. “There’s a great deal of focus on wellness.”

There are also positions that can assist licensed professionals in processing paperwork, which could give nurses more time to be bedside, Scanlon said.

“If we can have other jobs in support of licensed professionals, it helps create better efficiency,” Gustafson said.

Christine Curtis of Fox River Grove is a registered nurse at Good Shepherd.

The 25-year-old joined the hospital about a year ago after working in a nursing extended care home for a year and a half.

Along with having the passion for taking care of people, she knew nursing was a job that was in demand.

“I kind of always thought it would be a stable job and something I would be able to do for a long time,” Curtis said.

The medical-surgical nurse likes to encourage people who might want to go into the medical field.

“You could go anywhere and find something,” Curtis said.

Growing occupations

Number of new health care positions expected from 2012 to 2022

Personal care aides: 580,000

Home health aides: 424,200

Diagnostic medical sonographers: 27,000

Occupational therapy assistants: 12,900

Physical therapist assistants: 29,300

Physician assistants: 33,300

Physical therapists: 73,500

Nurse practitioners: 37,100

Dental hygienists: 64,200

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors: 28,200

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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