Now more than ever, COVID has put a spotlight on the need for affordable and accessible healthcare for all Westchester residents. And the good news for job seekers hoping to join the healthcare industry is that people are choosing to obtain healthcare closer to home. Nationally, healthcare occupations are projected to add more jobs than any other occupational groups, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Regionally, the healthcare sector contributes more than $18 billion in economic impact and employs well over 70,000 people, notes the Westchester County Association, a leading economic development and business advocacy organization in the region. With an increased demand for world-class healthcare locally, the current outlook for the industry in the county is certainly optimistic. Jobs can be found in various settings from hospitals, labs, rehabilitation and long-term care facilities to physicians’ offices and at-home care. If you are considering a healthcare job but aren’t sure if medical/nursing school is for you, read on, as there are a plethora of jobs available and some require only short certification courses or community college credits.
Administrative positions, for example, run the gamut. These jobs have titles such as medical receptionist, patient registration representative, billing representative, or surgery scheduler.
Westmed Medical Group, a multispecialty medical practice with 13 offices in Westchester County and nearby Fairfield County, believes these positions are essential to the daily operations of their organization and cannot be done remotely despite the increasing trend of telemedicine. “Most of our non-clinical positions do not require certain licensure or certification, or a college degree. For us, the candidates that will be most successful in these positions have other essential skills, such as demonstrated exceptional customer service and strong technological skills. These roles are often the first point of contact for patients during their visit and play a critical role in the overall patient experience,” explains Lindsey Garito, director of human capital management and total awards in HR operations at Westmed.
While the positions yield a wide range of candidates, the most likely ones to secure an interview have certain key words and skills on their resumes. “Candidates should highlight the full extent of their work experience and skills and demonstrate how their skills meet the essential qualifications of the position,” says Garito. Average salaries for these types of positions tend to be in the lower $30,000 range, but experienced workers can expect to make above $40,000.
There is a perception that hospitals employ only doctors, nurses, and other clinicians, “but hospitals are major employers in our region. Hospitals have so many other jobs, like transportation, food services, and security,” notes Jason Chapin, director of workforce development at the Westchester County Association.
In an essential industry such as healthcare, personnel is always needed. Diane Woolley, the chief human resources officer at White Plains Hospital (WPH), notes that recruiting for some positions is always challenging, but the pandemic actually resulted in a hiring surge at their hospital. Many hospitality and restaurant workers were laid off, and the hospital needed workers in food and environmental services that had transferrable skills. “Restaurant pay during the pandemic was variable, and our positions offer regular pay plus benefits, so we hired a lot of people per diem from that industry and converted them to long-term employees,” says Woolley.
Finding qualified security officers also remained a challenge during COVID, as some security workers preferred to work in a retail setting because of a perceived risk at the hospital. “You are actually more protected if you work in a hospital with PPE, and we follow the strictest CDC protocols,” Woolley says.
While other industries in the region reported job losses, Woolley notes that “there is no reduction in work at a hospital. We are filled to the brim every day.” Candidates who want to be fully and gainfully employed with a benefits package, time off, and the ability to make overtime, have ample opportunity at WPH, Woolley says, especially since the facility has expanded in recent years. Perhaps that is the reason the hospital has a 9% job-turnover rate, which is much lower than the industry standard of 14–17%.
Salaries for these auxiliary positions run the gamut. Averages for security officers are $38,000, housekeeping supervisors can expect $57,000, and food preparation workers receive a salary in the lower $30,000 range. The positions are commensurate with experience, but many hospitals look at market data and pay competitively.
“Hospitals in particular offer great training and great career pathways.”
—Jason Chapin, Director of Workforce Development, Westchester County Association
City dwellers choosing to settle in Westchester due to COVID, plus an expanding aging population, has contributed to exponential growth in a variety of clinical positions in the hospital or private-practice setting. These positions have titles such as medical assistant, phlebotomist, patient care technician, inhalation therapist, and x-ray technician. Some of these jobs do not require an advanced degree, while others require special certifications that usually can be completed with a two-to six-month course of study.
“The perception is that the job market has crashed, but I’m on LinkedIn and Indeed all the time. Using Mount Kisco as a central point to search for jobs within a 25-mile radius, there are roughly 18,000 jobs available, with the vast majority in healthcare with multiple openings in positions such as medical assistant. As many Baby Boomers retire and more people are vaccinated, the health industry is a growth sector in the county,” notes Chapin. “Hospitals in particular offer great training and great career pathways.” Entry-level positions for medical and nursing assistants average $30,000, while more specialized positions such as phlebotomists earn $33,000 at the entry level and around $50,000 with greater experience.
Then there’s the wide field of healthcare IT. If you think those jobs are all about coding and hacker prevention, it might be time to toss those assumptions aside. This is an ever-evolving area, with emerging technologies changing the healthcare landscape continuously. The rise of telemedicine has increased the need for talented IT professionals. The use of digital tools advanced more over the first six months of the pandemic than in the previous decade, according to the Healthcare Association of New York State. To create these tools and customizable apps, IT positions are in demand.
“A lot of our positions are contract to hire. A department may need to transition to a system, so we’ll hire a project-based contractor, and then, if we like their abilities, we will convert them to full-time employment,” says Woolley. Positions abound, including IT security, systems and network analysts, and desktop/PC support in various settings. Expect entry-level salaries around $37,000, with experienced IT professionals making upwards of $87,000.
The one thing in common is that those in this industry say their jobs are meaningful, and they are proud of the role they play in improving patients’ lives.