Positions such as licensed practical nurses and medical-records clerks are being eliminated or pushed out of hospitals into lower-paying corners of the field such as nursing homes. Meanwhile, positions that were once an accessible first rung on the career ladder, such as registered nursing, increasingly require at least a bachelor’s degree.
Why is this happening? Several factors are at work, but a central one is that automation is eliminating a lot of traditional health care jobs.Most of the experts interviewed by the WSJ were worried about all these job-stealing robots. Health care, after all, has become one of the last remaining fields in which one could earn one’s way to a middle class lifestyle without a college degree. In a time of growing economic inequality, the elimination of these jobs seems quite discouraging.But while the costs are real, there are plenty of upsides too. The most obvious are the efficiency gains that come with automation. Robots can do some jobs better, cheaper, and faster than humans. They can transcribe and store information, help doctors and nurses diagnose their patients, and even allow lower-skilled health care workers to treat patients with less oversight from doctors and other higher-skilled workers. We desperately need to capitalize on the benefits of medical tech if we want to get our health costs under control.What about the workers who will lose their jobs? This is, of course, bad news for them in the short term. We should find ways of helping them find work elsewhere. But this is how technology functions. It displaces people, yes, but it also creates new ways for them to make a living:
The shift to electronic medical records…has eliminated many traditional jobs maintaining patient records but has created a wealth of new opportunities for those with coding skills.
This is why it’s so important that our schools actually teach the skills necessary to seize these new opportunities.[Hospital technology image courtesy of Shutterstock]