Healthcare Assistant and Healthcare Science
Nature of Work
Combining medical technology and the human touch, the healthcare industry diagnoses, treats, and administers care around the clock, responding to the needs of millions of people-from newborns to the terminally ill. About 76 percent of healthcare establishments are offices of physicians, dentists, or other health practitioners. Although hospitals constitute only 1 percent of all healthcare establishments, they employ 35 percent of all workers.
The healthcare industry includes establishments ranging from small-town private practices of physicians who employ only one medical assistant to busy inner-city hospitals that provide thousands of diverse jobs. The healthcare industry consists of the following segments:
- Hospitals provide complete medical care, ranging from diagnostic services, to surgery, to continuous nursing care. Some hospitals specialize in treatment of the mentally ill, cancer patients, or children.
- Nursing care facilities provide inpatient nursing, rehabilitation, and health-related personal care to those who need continuous nursing care, but do not require hospital services.
- Residential care facilities provide around-the-clock social and personal care to children, the elderly, and others who have limited ability to care for themselves. Workers care for residents of assisted-living facilities, alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers, group homes, and halfway houses.
- Physicians and surgeons practice privately or in groups of practitioners who have the same or different specialties. Many physicians and surgeons prefer to join group practices because they afford backup coverage, reduce overhead expenses, and facilitate consultation with peers.
- Home healthcare services are provided mainly to the elderly. The development of in-home medical technologies, substantial cost savings, and patients' preference for care in the home have helped change this once-small segment of the industry into one of the fastest growing healthcare services.
- Offices of other health practitioners include the offices of chiropractors, optometrists, podiatrists, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, dietitians, and other health practitioners. This segment also includes the offices of practitioners of alternative medicine, such as acupuncturists, homeopaths, hypnotherapists, and naturopaths.
- Ambulatory healthcare services include outpatient care centers and medical and diagnostic laboratories. These establishments include kidney dialysis centers, outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, blood and organ banks, and medical labs that analyze blood, do diagnostic imaging, and perform other clinical tests.
Healthcare jobs are grouped into five detailed industries: hospitals, offices of health practitioners, nursing and residential care facilities, home healthcare services, and outpatient, laboratory, and other ambulatory care services. More than 15.8 million jobs existed in these industries in 2013. Employment in each of the detailed industries in 2013 was as follows:
- 6.1 million in hospitals (39 percent of the total)
- 4.1 million in offices of health practitioners (26 percent)
- 3.2 million in nursing and residential care facilities (20 percent)
- 1.2 million in home health care services (8 percent)
- 1.2 million in outpatient, laboratory, and other ambulatory care services (8 percent)
Healthcare employment is projected to grow by 26 percent from 2012 through 2022, an increase of about 4.1 million jobs.