The 2014 job market will be a challenge both for recent graduates looking to enter the healthcare field and current professionals seeking to change career paths. The healthcare industry has experienced several changes due to the state of the economy and the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, leading to the emergence of new structures in medical facilities. These new company structures have produced a different kind of healthcare professional.
"This is an exciting time to be starting a career in medicine and it's even an exciting time to be switching things up," said Alex Guerrero, MD, FACS, a trauma surgeon who is the associate director at Emergency Surgical Staffing (ESS). "The models that we've used in the past are growing obsolete very quickly."
ESS was established by Guerrero and partner David Kashmer, MD, MBA. The owners sought to capitalize on recent structural changes in hospitals that left the facilities with a lack of in-house surgeons. Described as a "temp agency for surgeons," the company provides surgeons to hospitals that are short of surgical staff. This allows ESS staff the opportunity to build their own schedules and to work in multiple facilities with multiple professionals around the country.
"When people think of a surgeon, they think of them having a practice, but that's changing as we speak," Guerrero said. "So, most of our guys have no practice at all and don't even have a home base. They work essentially virtually with our virtual department of surgery. We have a totally de-centralized system."
Prior to the ESS model, surgery departments functioned with trauma surgeons on call and then general surgeons, who performed elective practice procedures and trauma surgeries and were on-call at night. Guerrero described the transformation of surgery units in the last 5 years to more sorted practices, with general surgeons working routine daily hours and trauma surgeons on-call at night. This left a gap in staff to fill the nighttime hours, which is where ESS stepped in.
Due to the shifting landscape of healthcare, the role of professionals has changed for those joining the field or changing careers in the 2014 job market. Guerrero discussed the evolving direction of medical professionals as they navigate their career paths, pointing out the benefits of being a Jack of All Trades. Healthcare professionals who have a variety of experience and competency will have more options in the current market than those with specific specialties.
"It's counter intuitive," Guerrero said. "Ten years ago, when I was looking into a career, people were telling me I needed to be as specialized as possible. So, you need to be 'the guy' who just does this one little thing, and that's how you're going to market yourself . how you're going to be . how you're going to stand out. That's actually the worst advice to give right now."
Employers in today's market are looking for candidates with the ability to adapt quickly. ESS surgeons are mobile, flexible and personable enough to develop a rapport with the staff at any given facility. Guerrero also highlighted how important it is for healthcare professionals not to be afraid to take risks. To succeed in the fluctuating job market, it's helpful for a job seeker to be a little adventurous.
"In addition to just being able to provide excellent clinical care, the point to making this model work is having people that everybody loves wherever they go, and they're able to hit the ground running," Guerrero said. "People who essentially make friends quickly, who aren't stubborn, who don't alienate themselves - things like that."
Although it's difficult to know exactly what types of obstacles healthcare professionals might encounter in the 2014 job market, companies like ESS offer a glimpse into the changing workplace atmosphere. It is important for potential employees to be able to adapt to their surroundings and excel in new environments. Are you prepared to succeed in your field in the coming year?
5 Tips for 2014
In his interview, Guerrero offered five recommendations for healthcare professionals who are entering the field or in the process of changing career paths in 2014.
1) Broaden Your Horizons: In the past, the best way to move forward in the healthcare industry was to specialize. Now, medical facilities are seeking professionals with a wider skillset. When choosing a practice area, look for one that offers variety within the field.
2) Go Where the Jobs Are: Guerrero pointed out that one of downsides of a bigger city is a saturated market due to an abundance of medical professionals and limited available positions. Don't be afraid to travel. If you're willing to relocate or commute, it's easier to find work at a better pay grade.
3) Ignore the Stigmas: Working on a per diem basis has traditionally been viewed as an option without much stability, but due to the changing nature of the job market and the emergence of more flexible and mobile workplaces, the stigma is disappearing and more and more healthcare professionals are utilizing these positions as a springboard for their careers.
4) Networking: Networking is vital in any field, and healthcare is no exception. Just as Guerrero and his business partner first hired people they knew, potential employers are also looking for a connection with prospective employees.
5) Personality: To survive in a work structure like ESS, which relies on mobility and being able to adapt quickly to new environments, making a good first impression and establishing a rapport with new colleagues is essential to moving forward in your career.
Michael Jones is on Staff at ADVANCE.