Health Care

U.S. healthcare organizations long have discussed the shortage of qualified healthcare professionals and what can be done to remedy it. Now, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates the problem is worldwide, with an urgent need for the training of more healthcare workers.

WHO released a report on Nov. 11, 2013 that reveals the world will be short 12.9 million healthcare workers by the year 2035 if extreme measures are not taken. Currently, the shortage is at 7.2 million.

Healthcare workers include doctors, nurses, surgeons, dentists, physician assistants and medical technologists. While shortages are occurring across the board, the healthcare professions most affected are physicians, surgeons and nurses.

As the population continues to age, and people live longer, the need for ongoing medical care increases. Demand for nurses alone is expected to grow by 26 percent over the next decade.

Unlike with other business and industry, which can greatly be affected by economic factors, employment in healthcare professions is considered secure.

Education Requirements

The education required to work in the healthcare industry is dependent on the kind of job being sought within the field.

Nurses can receive associate degrees, also known as ADNs, which can be earned in less than three years. Candidates who hold an ADN are qualified to work in doctor’s offices, hospitals and nursing homes. Some hospitals still offer diploma programs in nursing, which qualifies candidates for entry-level positions in nursing. Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing are required for those who wish to work in administrative roles. Master’s degrees only are required for those who wish to teach nursing.

Doctors and surgeons require extensive training which can take up to eight years to complete. Four of those years are spent in undergraduate school and another four years in medical school. Additionally, physicians and surgeons must serve another three to eight years in an internship or residency.

Medical students can expect to take courses in biology, chemistry, physics, math and human anatomy as part of their undergraduate studies.
It is advisable for students to select only those degree programs which have received accreditation through a recognized agency. Two of the most accepted accrediting agencies are the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. A complete list of accrediting agencies is available on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Future Outlook

Demand for physicians and surgeons in the United States alone is expected to increase by 24 percent by 2020, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Medical professionals who are willing to work in rural and low-income areas will find the most job opportunities, as these currently are the areas experiencing the greatest shortage of qualified healthcare professionals. Specialty areas such as cardiology and radiology also are expected to grow due to the increased risk of heart disease and cancer among the growing elderly population.

Annual wages for physicians and surgeons are among the highest of all occupations. The average annual salary for primary care doctors is $202,392, and surgeons and physicians practicing in a medical specialty earn as much as $356,885.

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