March 4, 2021
Healthcare Ecosystem Jobs 2.0
Being a frontline healthcare worker during COVID can be risky, and lucrative
Demand for frontline healthcare workers, particularly nurses, is surging in the wake of the pandemic.
Competition for nurses in the COVID world is fierce. Chicago-area hospitals are offering sign-on bonuses as high as $15,000 to attract new nursing staff. Simultaneously, 41% of doctors told a recent Merritt Hawkins survey that they’ve experienced at least 26% fewer patients. While this may seem odd, during the pandemic patients have canceled or postponed elective procedures or don’t feel comfortable visiting a hospital or doctor’s office.
For students interested in jobs in the healthcare ecosystem, the pandemic has created a shift in demand. According to LinkedIn’s recent list of 15 Jobs on the Rise, in addition to nurses there’s an increased demand for healthcare support staff such as pharmacy technicians and home health aids, mental health specialists including therapists and psychologists, and data science specialists who can help analyze information during this unprecedented time.
STEM is shaping the future of health care. Over the last decade, jobs in STEM occupations grew significantly faster than non-STEM careers (24.4% vs. 4.0%, respectively). Patients now have increased access to mobile health apps, wearable devices, and electronic health records, giving them more tools and information to manage their general wellness. Telemedicine is increasing accessibility between patients and practitioners. Medical professionals are being empowered with the growing Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Robotics allow surgeons to create smaller, less painful incisions that enable shorter recovery times. Personalized medicine programs can use genetic data to more precisely and safely prescribe medical treatment plans.
We at CPASS recommend these exploring these healthcare careers in the current economy:
Nursing. Many Chicagoland nurses have been traveling around the United States supporting communities where they are most urgently needed. According to a recent University of Chicago paper, traveling nurses have been earning as much as $10,000/week during the pandemic. Chicago has some of the best nursing schools in the country, including the University of Illinois–Chicago, Rush University, and Loyola University Chicago. But being a nurse during COVID isn’t without its dangers. Hundreds of nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital went on strike in September to protest a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and call for higher wages. In November, hundreds of workers from 11 Illinois nursing homes went on strike also demanding more PPE and hazard pay.
Physician Assistant (PA). In Illinois, PAs are healthcare professionals who are licensed to write prescriptions, examine patients, and assist in surgery. In addition to completing prerequisite science coursework, PA candidates attend a graduate program for at least two years. According to US News & World Report, five of the top PA programs in the country are in Illinois. PAs in Chicago earn an average annual salary of $122,403. Demand for PAs will continue to grow as the nation ages.
Mental Healthcare. The new normal of life during the pandemic has led to a sharp increase in demand for mental health support. This year alone, an estimated $16 billion has been invested in innovative virtual behavioral health programs. Symptoms of anxiety and depression have tripled since the beginning of the pandemic, disproportionately impacting people of color. Salaries in mental and behavioral health jobs vary, often depending on how much education the job requires. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, marriage and family therapists in Chicago earned an average salary of $74,690 in 2019. These health professionals are required to earn a master’s degree and have 2,000–4,000 hours of clinical experience before being permitted to practice. Chicago school psychologists, who work with students to identify learning and behavioral needs, earn an average of $76,440. Psychologists in Illinois are required to have at least a master’s degree, and often go on to earn a doctorate.
Support shift to digital medicine. Digital health care support is projected to be the fastest-growing occupation by 2028. As the healthcare ecosystem becomes more digitized, medical administrative assistants will be replaced with software. Developers and engineers will be needed to design and support these complex programs that support telemedicine, hospitals, and health care. The average salary for these STEM careers in the Chicago area was $97,780 in 2019. Software developers often have an undergraduate degree in computer science but often go on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees. Developers also learn to code in bootcamps such as General Assembly rather than attending a traditional university program.
At CPASS Foundation, we are here to support with introducing traditionally underrepresented middle school, high school, and college students to STEM subjects, majors, and training. We provide guidance and thought leadership to help create opportunities for Illinois-based students to participate in STEM-related fields. Contact Dr. Stephen Martin to learn more about how you can partner with CPASS Foundation to create more opportunities for Black and other underrepresented students in the Chicago area.