Health beat

Top health care jobs for 2006 offer new opportunities

Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2006

With an aging baby boomer generation, it is no wonder that certain jobs in the health care industry are becoming more popular than ever before. Anyone looking for a career in health care this year should consider working in a field that's showing growth, both in number of employees and opportunity for continued growth. Here's a look at the top health care jobs that will be in demand in both 2006 and in the future.

1. Home health aides: Topping the list, home health aides provide routine health care, such as bathing, dressing and grooming, to elderly, convalescent or disabled patients in their home or at a residential-care facility. Employees in this field require short-term on-the-job training and a general knowledge of medicine, psychology, counseling and clerical duties. Communication, social perceptiveness and time-management skills are also desirable.

2. Medical assistants: Medical assistants perform administrative and clerical duties, such as maintaining billing and medical records, recording vital signs, drawing blood and preparing patients for examination, under the direction of a physician. Medical assistants require moderate-term on-the-job training and are expected to see a 59 percent increase in jobs by the year 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

3. Physician assistants: Physician assistants conduct complete physicals, provide treatment, counsel patients, and occasionally prescribe medication. This highly skilled profession requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited physician-assistant program and is expected to increase by 49 percent in coming years. Knowledge of medicine, biology, chemistry, counseling and psychology is required and communication and critical thinking skills are also needed.

4. Physical therapy assistants: Physical therapy assistants do just what their name implies: assist physical therapists in providing treatments and procedures to patients. In some cases, these employees will develop, carry out and modify treatment plans. Similar to the previous occupations, physical therapy assistant positions are expected to increase by an average of 3,000 jobs a year. Additionally, an associates degree and training is required.

5. Dental hygienists: A mainstay of dental treatment, dental hygienists clean teeth and examine patients for signs of oral disease. They may also take and develop X-rays and educate patients on oral hygiene. The BLS suggests that job openings in this field will increase by 43 percent by 2012. Employees in this area require an associates degree in addition to knowledge of dentistry, biology and customer service.

6. Dental assistants: Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care, office and laboratory duties. They work next to dentists as they examine and treat patients. Dental assistants make patients as comfortable as possible in the dental chair, prepare them for treatment and obtain their dental records. They sometime perform other tasks as well, like assisting in creating moldings, taking dental x-rays and more. The BLS suggests that job openings in this field will increase by 42.7 percent by 2012.

7. Personal and home care aides: Growing in response to an aging population, personal and home care aides help elderly, disabled and ill persons live in their own homes or in residential care facilities instead of in a health facility. No real medical background is necessary.

Most personal and home care aides work with elderly or disabled clients who need more extensive personal and home care than family or friends can provide. The BLS suggests that job openings in this field will increase by 41 percent by 2012.

8. Physical therapists: Physical therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health. The BLS suggests that job openings in this field will increase by 36.7 percent by 2012.

9. Physical therapy aides: Physical therapy aides perform only delegated or routine tasks, such as preparing the patient for therapy, under supervision of a physical therapist or an assistant.

These jobs have an expected increase of 46 percent in the coming years and require short-term on-the-job training. "I think PT is going to remain largely a hands-on profession," explains Beth Domholdt, professor and dean of the Krannert School of Physical Therapy at the University of Indianapolis. "We see people really needing that interaction-it isn't just about getting a muscle stronger or relieving pain, it's about helping people to change their health behaviors."

10. Occupational therapy aides: Occupational therapy aides perform only delegated or routine tasks, such as preparing the patient and the treatment room, under close supervision of an occupational therapist or assistant. Similar to physical therapy aides, these workers require short-term on-the-job training.

Jobs in this field are expected to increase by 43 percent, or nearly 500 jobs a year on average. Knowledge and skills needed include a combination of psychology, customer service, medicine and therapy.

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