On The Health Care Job Hunt? Consider Medical Coding.


By Al Parker

As Baby Boomers age, the need to employ a growing number of qualified health care workers to both prevent and treat medical conditions grows as well.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nation needs to retain its corps of qualified workers and also add a substantial number of new ones, with much of the occupational growth expected among health care support jobs – such as home health aids, physical therapy assistants, medical transcriptionists and more.

This is true, not only across the nation, but also in northern Michigan.

“We have confirmed needs all across the (health care) spectrum,” said Jeff Rose, human resources director at Munson Medical Center (MMC). “I expect hiring to be really hot for the next three to five years.”

So what type of positions will be hottest at MMC?

Top on the hospital’s wish list for hires are medical coders, individuals who are experts on diagnostic codes. These specially-trained coders are vital to the medical billing process. Every time a patient receives treatment in a hospital, doctor’s office, outpatient facility or surgical center, the service provider must document the care that was given. The medical coder’s job is to examine the documentation, assign the appropriate code and create a claim to be paid, either by an insurance company, the patient or another source.

“There are literally thousands of codes,” said Rose. “This is a real growth job that typically just requires certification, not a bachelor’s degree. We expect to hire several of them in the next year.”

Nationwide salaries for coders range from $48,000 to $58,000, according to the American Academy of Professional Coders. (LOCAL SALARY?); HOW DO YOU RECRUIT?

Second on Munson’s wish list is a perennial need – registered nurses. About one quarter of the (TOTAL?) hospital’s employees are RNs, according to Rose. “Our nurses are really the predominate position at the hospital,” he said. “At any one time there are about 70 positions open for RNs.”

Nationally, the BLS anticipates 19.4 percent employment growth in nursing between 2014 and 2022. While a number of factors, including education and experience, can impact the salary of nurses, a typical range is $55,000 to $60,000. To view nursing positions needed at Munson, visit munsonhealthcare.org/nursing-opportunities.

Along with a need for nurses, Munson is always looking for nursing assistants, according to Rose.

“This is a really critical job, but is an entry level position that doesn’t require a degree,” he said. “We hire folks who are high school graduates and train them. It’s a good way to get experience in health care and see if you like it. We have a number of nursing assistants who went on to become RNs. We have a number of openings now. Nursing assistants are always in demand.”

According to the MMC web site, nursing assistant salaries range from about $20,000 to $28,000.

On a national level, a list of Best Health Care Jobs compiled by U.S. News and World Report includes not only physicians and nurses, but also a few unexpected picks:

– Pharmacists, who mix technical and people skills, are in high demand, according to the BLS. Each day more than 280,000 pharmacists dispense medicine and advice to patients at hospitals and retail chains. The profession is expected to grow 14.5 percent by 2022.

– Physical therapists, who perform a wide variety of patient care services, will also be needed. Their job description could range from helping a stroke patient regain mobility or assisting a cancer survivor to recover his or her strength. This field is expected to grow 30 percent by 2022.

– Physician assistants who, under the supervision of doctors, interpret X-rays and blood tests, conduct routine exams and treat a range of ailments. The projection of 33,00 new jobs, coupled with a super low 1.2 percent unemployment rate, makes the job outlook for physician assistants quite strong.

To help meet that demand locally, Grand Valley State University recently announced it is expanding its Master of Physician Assistant Studies program by opening a satellite location in Traverse City. Grand Valley will open the program in the fall semester of 2015. Twelve students will be admitted in a cohort. Students will also spend their clinical year in northern Michigan health care facilities.

“One of our goals with this satellite program was to place more physician assistant graduates in jobs in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula,” said Roy Olsson, dean of the school’s College of Health Professions. “Educating students who complete their education and clinical experiences in northern Michigan should lead to more graduates staying in that area.”