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Aging workforce affecting medical professions, too


UNDATED (WSAU) -- The number of baby boomers retiring from high-skilled jobs is not just a problem for manufacturing and technology fields, it’s also affecting the health care industry.

Jodi Johnson is the Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice for the Wisconsin Hospital Association. She says hiring has been flat in the medical field statewide since the recession, but that’s expected to change according to recent statistics. “We are able to keep track of these trends, and the number of aging health care workers, and so that information is helpful for hospitals to strategically plan for these changes in the future.”

Johnson says there are two areas the Wisconsin Hospital Association is working on. One is to work with the K-12 school systems to help find the right young people to recruit for future medical field careers. The other is to encourage entry-level medical workers to continue learning.  “Certified nursing assistants, medical technologists, occupational therapy assistants, things that enter them into the workforce (and) into the hospital setting in some of these positions, then continuing their education through tuition reimbursement, or incentives within the hospital that will lead them to those higher-level positions when they open.”

Many of the people that are nursing assistants or care assistants are not in a hospital setting, and work for nursing homes or home health care agencies. Johnson says those people need to know it’s never too late to start learning again to improve your skills.  “There could be incentives, both at an education level, and maybe a second degree, going back to school with a flexible schedule, or flexible education programs that universities or colleges can offer can be enticing to encourage them to go back for either a different degree in a different health care field, or a higher level degree.”

Almost 20% of nurses and 35% of laboratory technologists are presently over 55-years-old. The WHA also says 22% of hospital pharmacists are over 55. Johnson says it’s important to have other professionals ready to move into these key positions as existing staff retires.