Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2001

Workforce nursing health care to top of job market

November 1, 2001

When Shari Mott got into home health care as a teenager, she wasn't thinking about the future of the job market. Growing up near the Eudora Nursing Center, Mott loved visiting the residents. When one man planned to return to his home and needed 24-hour care, Mott found herself caring for him and hiring others for the rest of his care. Seeing him live another year in his own home was an amazing experience, Mott said.

Although Mott will graduate with a nursing degree in May, her previous job as a home health aide is the fastest-growing occupation in the northeast area of the state, according to the Kansas Department of Human Resources' Workforce Planning Guide 2001. Chief for labor market information services William Layes said planners and some employers use the workforce guides to look at which areas training would be appropriate.

From 1996 to 2006, the number of home health aides is expected to increase more than 50 percent.

Mott suspects that an aging population isn't the only reason why home health aides are in high demand. Even though patients may be cleared to leave the hospital, Mott said many of them still need care.

"Dealing with insurance, they get you out of the hospital really quickly," she said.

Although she worked mostly with senior citizens, people use home health care for needs ranging from full-time care to a two-hour visit to have someone do laundry and keep company.

Area II, which is comprised of the northeast Kansas counties, minus the Kansas City metropolitan counties bordering Missouri, shows health services employ the most people by far, second only to eating and drinking establishments, which trail by about 4,000 workers. Mott attributes the prevalence of health services workers to lifestyle changes.

"We are a lot healthier than we used to be," she said.

Family physicians routinely refer patients to specialists, and occupational and physical therapy is used for many types of conditions and surgery, more so than it used to be, she said.

The planning guide also boasts eight of its top 10 highest paying occupations are in the health industry. Yet nowhere to be found are home health aides, registered nurses, nurses' aides and orderlies, all of which are in the list of the top 10 fastest growing occupations, between the surgeons, dentists and anesthesiologists, on the highest-paid list.

Mott's move to nursing stemmed from a desire to work as a nurse and having more free time since her children were in school. She needed income after the death of her husband. According to the planning guide, home health aides in this part of the state make about $7.80 per hour on average.

Even if home health aides don't rake in the big bucks, Mott doesn't understand why anyone in the occupation would feel underappreciated. She recently read or heard that people consider health care workers to hold some of the most admired jobs.

"I think the sad thing about home health aides is, unfortunately, they don't make very much money so they don't realize how important they are," she said. "To be able to take care of people who can't take care of themselves, think what they're doing. You need them."

Although some home health aides work through agencies and become licensed, Mott's reputation spread by word of mouth and her credentials came from her vast experiences. Aside from the job flexibility, Mott said the people she worked with made the job worthwhile.

The day of the terrorist attacks Mott said she was visiting an Overland Park nursing home, which gave her great perspective on the events.

"Old people are the wisest," she said. "I've learned so much from them."

Although she hasn't decided what direction her degree will take her, Mott said going back to home health care as a registered nurse would be a great option given her previous experiences.

With an aging population and the projected growth of home health aides, new workers need to be brought into the market, and Mott said she hoped some publicity would entice people into the job.

"I hope people think, 'That would be fun,'" she said.

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