SNF employment: Does it mean life in slow lane?

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. 

As it turns out, each of us has something in common: We all want a return on an investment. With colleges, for example, a poor choice could turn a diploma into a very expensive punch line.

It's not likely long-term care advocates were in a joking mood, however, upon recently learning that the skilled nursing industry had the slowest average employment growth among healthcare sectors from 2000 to 2016.

The data compilation by Deloitte University Press seems horrible until a little mathematical analysis is applied. In brief, the overall number of nursing homes and skilled nursing beds is struggling. Booming numbers of seniors are dispersing in a wider arc than ever before, so why wouldn't fewer SNF employees be needed?

Eldercare, senior care, rehab, memory care and other forms of assistive living? Sure, they're growing significantly — and usually faster than the national average. That's unlike skilled care, which has been under assault by home- and community-based care pushers and other market forces for a long time. 

The good news is there were no skilled nursing positions listed in the Department of Labor'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. Those are three of the bottom four professions on the “fastest declining” list.

Skilled nursing professionals are clearly head and shoulders above them when it comes to future work prospects.

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

The “fastest growing” occupations list from the Department of Labor has “wind turbine service technician” at the very top. But after that, the next four positions (occupational therapy assistant, physical therapy assistant, physical therapy aide, home health aide) are in healthcare. In fact, 11 of the top 13 job titles, including physical therapist, 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 a good place.