Healthcare Practitioners and Support Workers – Vital to Our Economic Health

by Anna Johnson

August 21, 2018

A strong healthcare workforce is obviously essential to Oregonians’ physical health; it is also an important contributor to the state’s economic well-being. There were nearly 159,000 healthcare workers statewide in 2017, which constitute almost 8 percent of all occupational employment. The Oregon Employment Department projects these jobs to grow 18.6 percent by 2027, greater than the 12.0 percent growth projected across all occupations. Among other factors, this growth is strongly correlated to continued population growth (particularly in the state’s urban areas) and an aging population in need of medical services.

Healthcare jobs are diverse in their duties, wages, and educational requirements but typically fall into one of two categories – practitioners or support workers.

Healthcare Practitioners

Healthcare practitioners include workers responsible for diagnosing and treating patients, as well as those directly responsible for administering advanced medical technologies. Occupations employing the largest number of Oregonians in this group include registered nurses, physicians and surgeons, pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, and dental hygienists. Statewide, practitioners account for about 67 percent of all healthcare jobs.

Broadly speaking, wages for this group are very high, but they vary widely across occupations. The 2018 average annual wages for the healthcare practitioners with the largest projected growth ranged from $209,328 for physicians and surgeons to $40,353 for pharmacy technicians. These jobs also typically demand a tremendous educational commitment. Many of these occupations require at least a master’s degree to be considered competitive for a position, with some requiring a doctoral or professional degree for entry level positions. Many practitioners are also responsible for meeting licensing criteria at regular intervals throughout their careers.
Healthcare Support Staff

Practitioners alone cannot treat, cure, and manage healthcare for all people at all times. This requires a larger, coordinated network of support staff to assist with specific, day-to-day tasks crucial to patient care and administration. Occupations employing the largest number of Oregonians in this group include nursing assistants, medical assistants, home health aides, dental assistants, and massage therapists. Statewide, healthcare support workers account for more than 30 percent of all healthcare jobs.

Generally, wages for healthcare support workers are much lower than for practitioners; they are also lower than wages in many other non-healthcare jobs. For the occupations that employ the most Oregonians, the average hourly wages range from $61,144 for massage therapists to $26,332 for home health aides. It should be noted that jobs in healthcare support are more likely to be part-time than in the practitioner field. Most jobs require some type of non-degree postsecondary training to be competitive for a position. Workers typically receive this training at Oregon’s community colleges, Job Corp training centers, or private career schools.
Projected Employment for Healthcare Practitioners and Support Staff

Practitioner job openings are expected to be plentiful during the next decade. The Oregon Employment Department projects more than 7,700 total annual openings from 2017 to 2027 with almost 24 percent coming from newly created jobs (compared with only 9 percent across all occupations) and the remaining 76 percent coming from replacement openings due to retirement or major career changes. The occupations projected to have the largest number of total openings include registered nurses, physicians and surgeons, pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, and dental hygienists.
Healthcare support job openings are also expected to be plentiful during the next decade. The Oregon Employment Department projects more than 7,400 total annual openings from 2017 to 2027 with about 15 percent coming from newly created jobs and the remaining openings coming from replacement openings. The occupations with the largest number of projected total openings include nursing assistants, medical assistants, home health aides, dental assistants, and massage therapists.

 


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