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Health care jobs on steady rise in Central New York
October 10, 2012
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It has made headlines in major publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and USA Today.  It has been the subject of its own share of controversy. And despite the downturn in the economy, it continues to flourish.

It is the health care industry.

Although unemployment hovers around eight percent, jobs in health care are booming. The growing aging population, wider health insurance coverage and incentives for hospitals to switch to digital records are all adding to the growing number of careers in health care.

As these vacancies grow, employers often struggle to find qualified professionals to fit their needs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in the health care field will grow more than 20 percent through 2018, twice as fast as overall U.S. job growth.

And as this issue makes news nationwide, its story is all too familiar to the Syracuse area.

“What is happening in Syracuse very much mirrors what is happening elsewhere in the country – a consolidation in the health care industry and a time of rapid, unprecedented change,” said Kim Townsend, associate general counsel and senior director of government affairs at Welch Allyn, a Syracuse-based medical device, software and systems solutions manufacturer.

Townsend is a prominent figure in health care in central New York. In addition to her position at Welch Allyn, she is also the chair of the board of directors at Loretto, the largest long-term care facility in upstate New York, and she sits on a number of non-profit boards that across the state.

“Because the government is paying providers for demonstrating meaningful use of electronic medical records, anyone who hasn’t had one or has been using it sub-optimally is now being paid to adopt or better use technology,” Townsend said. “That’s creating a huge demand for health IT jobs in this area.”

Nationally, two-thirds of hospital chief information officers state that they are short staffed, and employment in health information technology jobs has increased by 88 percent since 2010.

The integration of clinical and operational data is one of the reasons health information technology continues to be such a rapidly growing field.

“The work that SUNY Oswego is doing -- creating both programs and certificate programs -- is incredibly useful. They’ve done a great job speaking to health care institutions and businesses in their area as part of the shaping progress for these certificate programs.”
Kim Townsend
Associate General Counsel & Senior Director of Government Affairs, Welch Allyn

“The fix [for integration] isn’t scanning and sending things across a fax or printing out paper and having a courier take it across town,” Townsend said. “It’s computer based networks sharing data across a continuum of care wirelessly, seamlessly and in real time.”

But this doesn’t mean just anyone can walk into a high-paying career in health care; the demand is for qualified workers who satisfy the educational requirements.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011 report notes that the “demand for postsecondary education and training in health care, already high, will continue to edge upward” and 94 percent of professional and technical jobs in health care will require postsecondary education.

SUNY Oswego has created graduate programs to answer this need in these coveted health areas, offering graduate certificates in health information technology, integrated health systems, gerontology, trauma studies and play therapy, as well as a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

“The work that SUNY Oswego is doing -- creating both programs and certificate programs -- is incredibly useful,” Townsend said. “They’ve done a great job speaking to health care institutions and businesses in their area as part of the shaping progress for these certificate programs.”

Members of SUNY Oswego’s faculty met directly with health care organization leaders while creating these programs to ensure they met the area’s job needs. They designed the programs with both students and working professionals in mind, and both stand to directly benefit from enrolling.

“Any employee that pursues value-added certificates stands out on their own, independent of the value,” Townsend said. “It shows initiative, motivation and a willingness to expand their skillset.”

“If I were a student and I was looking at a educational programs, I would want to be sure that it was something that is going to be relevant in the marketplace,” she added. “The fact SUNY Oswego spoke to companies like Welch Allyn and health care institutions like Upstate Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center ensures the product that comes out of those dialogues is important and marketable in this area.”

But the demand nationwide for health care employees shows that these programs can help workers find jobs wherever they go.

“The feedback that SUNY Oswego collected from regional employers is going to be very representative of what health care institutions are looking for in the U.S.,” Townsend said. “These programs and certificates are not only marketable if you stay in this area, they are marketable if you want to move out of the area.”

SUNY Oswego’s health programs have rolling admission and accept applications throughout the year. For more information, contact the Graduate Office at SUNY Oswego at (315) 312-3152 or gradoff@oswego.edu .

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