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What Jobs Will Healthcare Stimulus Funding Create?

What Jobs Will Healthcare Stimulus Funding Create?

With billions of economic stimulus dollars flowing to healthcare, American workers can expect a burst of job creation in the industry in 2009 and beyond, including new positions for clinicians and professionals in key support areas.

The numbers are impressive: More than 200,000 clinical and nonclinical jobs could be created by healthcare stimulus spending, according to government estimates. And that’s in an industry that continued to increase hiring through 2008, a year of recession: Just over 5.6 million healthcare and social-assistance hires were made in 2008, more than in any other year this decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Where will the jobs be? All over the country, in many care settings and in many healthcare industry sectors, but most significantly in these three:

  • Healthcare information technology.
  • Medical and allied-health training.
  • Community health.

Healthcare IT Jobs Will Get a Huge Boost

President Barack Obama sees healthcare information technology (HIT) in general, and electronic medical records (EMRs) in particular, as keys to improving the quality of care while reducing costs. Working with Congress, the president secured a major investment in HIT when he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law.

As a result, tens of thousands of IT professionals will be hired into the following roles, according to Richard Howe, a vice president of HIT consulting firm Healthcare Informatics Associates: Developers who create or customize EMR software for hospitals; systems integrators who bring together a multitude of legacy applications; IT trainers; and clinical consultants -- RNs, lab technicians, pharmacists and others -- who will apply their knowledge of hospital operations to the implementation of EMR systems.

HIT projects will require software engineers, analysts and technicians, as well as IT and IS managers. Their expertise will be deployed on projects including medical informatics, consumer health informatics, healthcare management software and healthcare information security. “There will be a significant demand for tech workers with strong security credentials,” says Steven Ostrowski, a spokesman for CompTIA, a technology industry association.

Many HIT jobs will be open to experienced IT professionals from other industries. “By the nature of the evolving discipline of HIT, there’s a lot of learning on the job,” says Thomas Horan, an associate professor of information technology at Claremont Graduate University.

But a host of other healthcare systems jobs may require specialized academic training. Institutions such as Claremont are ready with a master’s program in health IT, while DeVry University offers degree programs in healthcare information systems and technical management with a health information managment specialty.

When will the HIT jobs begin to flow? “The money will start to become available in late 2010 or early 2011,” Howe says. “But if a hospital wants to take full advantage of the federal funding, they have to be ready with a qualified EMR system, and that takes two or three years.” For that reason, many hospitals will quickly ramp up their efforts to lay the foundations for EMRs.

Dollars for Training Nurses and Other Practitioners

The Recovery Act will help aspiring healthcare workers start or complete their training.

Stimulus funding includes $200 million for nursing workforce development programs and health professions training programs. This funding may supply scholarships for nursing-school applicants or supplement financial support for current nursing students. “These dollars will enable many nursing students to finish their education on time,” rather than suspend their studies due to financial difficulties, says Suzanne Begeny, director of government affairs for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The stimulus package also addresses the critical shortage of nursing faculty with a loan repayment program to encourage advanced-degree nursing students to consider teaching. Right now “nursing schools can’t take in more students because of the faculty shortage,” Begeny says.

The stimulus also includes $500 million in primary-care workforce funding for programs such as the National Health Service Corps, which gives doctors, dentists and other practitioners a financial incentive to work in underserved rural and inner-city areas.

Medical Jobs in Community Health

The Recovery Act also includes money to boost primary care at community health centers, which typically serve the uninsured and underinsured and collect from patients only a small percentage of the cost of services rendered.

Stimulus money for the nation’s 1,200 community health centers “should create about 8,000 jobs,” says Dan Hawkins, senior vice president for policy and programs at the National Association of Community Health Centers. These jobs will include doctors, dentists, pharmacists, RNs, nurse aides, lab technicians, outreach workers and drivers.

Of those 8,000 new jobs, 5,500 had already been created by mid-March 2009 with $155 million in stimulus funds, according to Health Resources and Services Administration spokesman David Bowman.

The Recovery Act also includes $85 million in funding for the Indian Health Service to develop projects such as telehealth services.

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