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For example, new program at Southern Miss focusing on healthcare marketing

Demand for non-patient care workers on rise

There are critical shortages for all types of nurses as well as other specialists including radiology technicians, sonographers, nuclear medicine techs, EMTs and paramedics, respiratory therapists, pharmacy techs and lab techs. But less well known is the fact that non-patient care-related jobs are also in great demand, says Wanda Jones, executive director of the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce (MONW).

“Positions that are very much needed, but are non-patient care-related, include health information technicians, information technology, medical records coders and transcriptionists, bio technologists and safety engineers,” Jones said. “There are also listed with U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as high-growth, high-demand jobs. There is also a demand for people to work in healthcare in the area of marketing, public relations, communications, finance and accounting. We need people in all of those roles.”

In addition to the retirement the Baby Boomers that is placing more demand on healthcare providers, there is also increasing longevity. A lot of that is due to improvements in technology, and people living healthier lives. There are more octogenarians today that the country has ever seen before.

A long list

Another factor is there are many areas of care delivery. In addition to hospitals and clinics, there are outpatient areas like pain clinics, outpatient surgery, home care and assisted living.

“The lists just goes on and on,” Jones said. “The more of those kinds of venues offer healthcare, the we need workers in those areas. We have a tremendous shortage in nursing and allied health positions. So, it is even more important now that we do have people in all these other supporting health roles so allied health professionals don’t have to do those things.”

Medical support jobs may be ideal for someone who is squeamish but wants to work in a healthcare environment. Most support positions require at least a high school diploma, others a college education. A number of these positions are technical positions that people can get certification in by taking courses at a community college. Some types of program include those for information technology and medical transcription.

“Pay is excellent, and most of these positions are full-time positions, which puts the person in line for healthcare benefits, life insurance and maybe even tuition for continuing education and that sort of thing,” Jones said. “If a person doesn’t know what they want to do, but want to maybe seek a field in healthcare, they may want to go to a local hospital and talk to the HR director. They may want to ask if they can shadow in different positions. A lot of hospitals allow that. Or they may want to take a job in a hospital and work in different positions either patient related or non-patient related to get an idea what they want to do. Counselors at the colleges are also good sources for direction on career paths.”

Getting started

Two-year degrees can be just the starting point for someone in the healthcare industry. Jones said once people work in the field for a while, they might opt to go back to work towards a degree in business or even a specialty degree like a master’s in healthcare administration.

Information is also available at the Mississippi Hospital Association health careers Web site, www.mshealthcareers.com, and Mississippi Office of Nursing, www.nonw.org.

MONW is a proponent of high school students getting involved in health careers. Many hospitals have explorers program or something with similar title that exposes high schools to healthcare careers. And courses in allied healthcare are available at many high schools.

Seeing the connections

By getting some exposure in healthcare in high school, whether patient and non-patient related, students can see the connection.

“We are trying to do all we can to expose students in high school,” Jones said. “It helps them to narrow their areas of interest so parents don’t spend extra money and students don’t take more courses than they need so they can finish school in a more timely manner. This may contribute to lowering drop out rates because they see a connection between education and future career that will give them a stable salary and benefits, and upward mobility.”

One non-patient care field that is growing rapidly is medical marketing. As a whole that area, sales and marketing, is expected to grow by approximately 14% in the U.S. in the next six or seven years, said Dr. C. Michael Wittmann, assistant professor of marketing and Draughn Professor of Healthcare Marketing at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM).

“That’s including things like sales manager, marketing managers and medical and health services managers,” Wittmann said. “The employment growth depending on the job title is somewhere between 14% and 20%.”

Southern Miss and the College of Business have had an emphasis on pharmaceutical sales in the past 20 years. A few years ago, the university received a gift from Max and Susan Draughn, who have the pharmaceutical companies Cypress Pharmaceuticals (cypressrx.com) and Hawthorn Pharmaceuticals (Hawthornrx.com) in Madison, that has allowed USM to build its marketing program including offering a new bachelor of science in business administration degree in healthcare marketing, making Southern Miss one of a handful of universities in the country and the only university in the Southeast to offer such a degree.

Adding value

Wittman said the new degree will add value to the marketability of students and better meet the increasing needs of the healthcare industry. In addition to requiring a multi-disciplinary approach that includes a strong foundation in the sciences, graduates will complete an internship in the healthcare field.

“Not only will this strengthen students’ skills and knowledge of the industry, it will give them significant exposure to potential employers,” Wittman said. “I think there are excellent job prospects. Just look at the growth of healthcare due the demographics of the population, and your see there is going to be greater need for sales people in pharmaceutical sales, medical supplies, home health, medical equipment and devices.

Drug salesmen sometimes aren’t well thought of by patients who wait in the doctor’s office for a long time, and see drug salesmen enter and quickly be taken back to visit the doctor. Wittmann said he doesn’t think the industry as a whole has done a good job of managing its image and pointing out the positive role it plays.

“An average sales call for drug rep is 1.5 minutes with the doctor,” Wittmann said. “They may go into the back, but may be waiting in the hall for a while before get to see the doctor. The fact is they only get a minute and a half. And pharmaceutical is the smallest portion of overall healthcare spending and the most effective. I think that gets overlooked a good bit.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at 4becky@cox.net.

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