Career Instability in the Healthcare Industry During Covid-19

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Dec 1, 2020

Dec 1, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

As of the time of this writing, the Covid-19 pandemic has killed approximately 310,000 Americans, with millions more infected. As the most prominent healthcare crisis of our time, the ramifications are dire not only on our health and families but also on our economy and financial stability. The necessary stay-at-home mandates and quarantine measures have caused many businesses to close their doors, some of them forever. The New York Times reported in late December that businesses were mostly closed in some states, like California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. States like California, Ohio, and North Carolina were under stay-at-home orders or curfews. 

Entire industries—the events industry, for example—have been shut down. One notable example is Margin Walker, the largest independent concert promoter in Texas, dissolving in December, as reported by Texas Monthly. In a statement published on Twitter, representatives of the company wrote, "The uncertainty and lack of resources have hammered down on those working in this world from venues to artists to festivals, promoters, and beyond."

Other industries, like hospitality, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, and airlines are all taking astronomical losses. In many cases, the lost revenue is worse than the aftermath of 9/11 and the Great Recession combined. Consider that one of the largest movie theater chains, AMC, recently announced it might declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

One of the industries to be hit may come as a surprise—the healthcare industry. You might think, given the nature of the pandemic and the existential need for doctors and nurses, that healthcare jobs would be safe right now. 

However, the truth is most people are declining to visit their healthcare practitioners out of an abundance of caution about contracting Covid-19. The perception is that when a routine trip to your primary care physician could expose you to the germs of sick people, you might as well stay home. People who need to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2 infection can order an at home Covid test that delivers secure digital results within 24-72 hours. The cost is low—as well as reimbursable—and there are even telehealth consultations available for those people who test positive. 

Telemedicine is having its day, too. Healthcare professionals are diagnosing and treating patients remotely through telephone and video chat formats. In the cases of remote monitoring, patients can use technological devices at home that report in real-time to their doctor.

Back in May, the Labor Department reported that a stunning 1.4 million healthcare jobs disappeared—equivalent to about one in 12. The biggest chunk of these was in outpatient environments, like physical therapy and dental offices. In these medical offices, economists say about half of the jobs have been lost. 

Even hospitals and nursing care facilities have shed jobs —135,000 and 113,000, respectively. While one might hope that diagnostic labs are running at peak capacity during a pandemic that requires comprehensive testing, 11% of these jobs disappeared as well as 6% of home-health positions. 

Experts say the reason for these losses has to do with people’s reluctance to expose themselves to the virus, particularly seniors and those with compromised immune systems. 

“There’s a natural cautiousness and reluctance of seniors as well as other people who have comorbid conditions to expose themselves to Covid,” says healthcare consultant Dan Mendelson.

Additionally, many hospitals and healthcare providers were forced to forgo surgeries, procedures, and appointments, eating into their revenue.

Job losses in the healthcare industry continued over the summer and into the fall and winter. The long-term effects of this widespread market disruption are unknown but could be further compounded by unemployment in other industries, as workers who lose their healthcare coverage would be unable to see their doctors. This cycle could perpetuate itself like this for years to come.

State governments slashing Medicaid reimbursements is yet another threat looming on the horizon. 

Some sectors of healthcare have seen job growth since the Labor Department released their numbers in the spring. Registered nurses—who are the lifeblood of emergency rooms and intensive care units, where hundreds of thousands of people are on ventilators—have increased by 51%.

Of course, as mentioned above, healthcare is hardly the only industry facing severe layoffs. Shifts in consumer sentiment and workplace protocol have majorly affected virtually every sector of the economy.

The following jobs have been the worst hit: audiologists have seen their jobs cut by a whopping 70%; event coordinators (consider the near-total dearth of live events) are down 69%; product demonstrators are down 63%; half of opticians have lost their jobs. Additionally, chefs, executive assistants, beauty consultants, valets, stylists, and coaches have all seen major cuts to their employment rates. 

There are still many unknowns with regard to job growth and career stability moving forward. In fact, we’re faced with mostly unknowns, as there is simply no way to know right now how long the pandemic will keep large sectors of the economic shut down and whether or not the job losses are permanent.