As the largest industry in 2006, health care provided 14 million jobs—13.6 million jobs for wage and salary workers and about 438,000 jobs for the self-employed. 7 of the 20 fastest growing occupations are health care related. Health care will generate 3 million new wage and salary jobs between 2006 and 2016, more than any other industry. Most workers have jobs that require less than 4 years of college education, but health diagnosing and treating practitioners are among the most educated workers.
[ Source - Career Guide to Industries ]
About 580,000 establishments make up the health care industry; they vary greatly in terms of size, staffing patterns, and organizational structures. Nearly 77 percent of health care establishments are offices of physicians, dentists, or other health practitioners.
The health care industry includes establishments ranging from small-town private practices of physicians who employ only one medical assistant to busy inner-city hospitals that provide thousands of diverse jobs. In 2006, almost half of non-hospital health care establishments employed fewer than five workers.
The health care industry consists of the following nine segments:
Hospitals. Hospitals provide complete medical care, ranging from diagnostic services, to surgery, to continuous nursing care. Some hospitals specialize in treatment of the mentally ill, cancer patients, or children. Hospital-based care may be on an inpatient (overnight) or outpatient basis. The mix of workers needed varies, depending on the size, geographic location, goals, philosophy, funding, organization, and management style of the institution. As hospitals work to improve efficiency, care continues to shift from an inpatient to outpatient basis whenever possible. Many hospitals have expanded into long-term and home health care services, providing a wide range of care for the communities they serve.
Nursing and residential care facilities. Nursing care facilities provide inpatient nursing, rehabilitation, and health-related personal care to those who need continuous nursing care, but do not require hospital services. Nursing aides provide the vast majority of direct care. Other facilities, such as convalescent homes, help patients who need less assistance. Residential care facilities provide around-the-clock social and personal care to children, the elderly, and others who have limited ability to care for themselves. Workers care for residents of assisted-living facilities, alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers, group homes, and halfway houses. Nursing and medical care, however, are not the main functions of establishments providing residential care, as they are in nursing care facilities.
Offices of physicians. About 37 percent of all health care establishments fall into this industry segment. Physicians and surgeons practice privately or in groups of practitioners who have the same or different specialties. Many physicians and surgeons prefer to join group practices because they afford backup coverage, reduce overhead expenses, and facilitate consultation with peers. Physicians and surgeons are increasingly working as salaried employees of group medical practices, clinics, or integrated health systems.
Offices of dentists. About 1 out of every 5 health care establishments is a dentist’s office. Most employ only a few workers, who provide preventative, cosmetic, or emergency care. Some offices specialize in a single field of dentistry such as orthodontics or periodontics.
Home health care services. Skilled nursing or medical care is sometimes provided in the home, under a physician’s supervision. Home health care services are provided mainly to the elderly. The development of in-home medical technologies, substantial cost savings, and patients’ preference for care in the home have helped change this once-small segment of the industry into one of the fastest growing parts of the economy.
Offices of other health practitioners. This segment of the industry includes the offices of chiropractors, optometrists, podiatrists, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, dietitians, and other health practitioners. Demand for the services of this segment is related to the ability of patients to pay, either directly or through health insurance. Hospitals and nursing facilities may contract out for these services. This segment also includes the offices of practitioners of alternative medicine, such as acupuncturists, homeopaths, hypnotherapists, and naturopaths.
Outpatient care centers. The diverse establishments in this group include kidney dialysis centers, outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, health maintenance organization medical centers, and freestanding ambulatory surgical and emergency centers.
Other ambulatory health care services. This relatively small industry segment includes ambulance and helicopter transport services, blood and organ banks, and other ambulatory health care services, such as pacemaker monitoring services and smoking cessation programs.
Medical and diagnostic laboratories. Medical and diagnostic laboratories provide analytic or diagnostic services to the medical profession or directly to patients following a physician’s prescription. Workers may analyze blood, take x rays and computerized tomography scans, or perform other clinical tests. Medical and diagnostic laboratories provide the fewest number of jobs in the health care industry.
[ Excerpted from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2008-09 Edition, Health Care ]