Life in the slow lane: SNF employment

James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

With one son in college and another trying to figure out where to attend, the future job market is a topic near and dear to this writer's heart. Believe me.

We all have something in common: We want a return on an investment.

With colleges, make a poor choice and that diploma on the wall can become the subject of a very expensive punchline.

But it's not likely long-term care advocates were in a joking mood last week when we reported that since the turn of the century, the skilled nursing industry had shown the slowest average employment growth among healthcare sectors.

It sounds horrible. Until one pauses to bring math into the equation. That the overall number of nursing home jobs is growing slowly should surprise no one. Maybe the surprise should be that the number is growing at all.

We're in an era when the national numbers of nursing homes and nursing home beds are fading. The booming seniors population is diluting the need for nursing home employees by dispersing elsewhere.

Eldercare, senior care, rehab, memory care and other forms of assistive living? Sure, they're growing significantly, usually above the national average. But skilled care has been under assault by the home- and community-based care pushers and other market forces for a while now. The numbers simply mean that jobs are growing slower than other parts of healthcare.

It certainly doesn't mean that once you've clocked in you have a slow routine. Any CNA, or former association president who once tried to work as a CNA and cried “no mas!” can tell you that.

Besides, there were no skilled nursing positions listed in the federal government's “fastest declining” professions list.

You want positions with a sad outlook for the 2014-2024 time frame? Talk to locomotive firers, telephone operators, and postal service mail sorters and processors. Those are three of the four absolute lowest professions on the “fastest declining” list.

No, dear skilled-nursing professional, you are head and shoulders above them when it comes to future work prospects.

And look at it this way: If the skilled nursing gig doesn't work out, you will be in a pretty good position to segue into another job.

The “fastest growing” occupations list from the Department of Labor projects “wind turbine service technician” at the very top. But after that, the next four positions (OT assistant, PT assistant, PT aide, home health aide) are in healthcare. In fact, 11 of the top 13 job titles, including occupations such as audiologist and optometrist, are healthcare-related.

In other words, if you want to be where the jobs will be, especially near the end of that 2014-2024 window, you might already be in the right place.

Follow James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.              


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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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