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If you’re interested in a career in health, the prospects are bright. The health sector, which is already Australia’s largest source of employment, has the strongest growth projections of any other industries – up 16.1% from 2017 to 2022. The main driver is Australia’s ageing population and a rising need for people to perform roles in both clinical and community positions. Statistics show that health is likely to be one of Australia’s key service industries by 2030, when 20% of the population will be 65 or older.
Always wanted a job helping people, but not sure where to begin? Associate Professor Lynn Riddell, Deakin University’s Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Health and Dr Kate Anderson, Course Director of Deakin’s Bachelor of Health Sciences, break down your future career options.
‘The ageing population is the main driver of jobs and careers in the future,’ Prof. Riddell explains. ‘In terms of health that opens up a much larger employment market. You have clinical needs and community needs.’
On the clinical side, important roles will include registered nurses, doctors, medical imaging specialists, dietitians and clinical exercise physiologists. There are community opportunities in public health, social work, occupational therapy and psychology. In addition, more opportunities will come up in niche roles to support aging people. These might include helping to counsel people through later life decision-making, or diet and food innovation for older people.
The implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is also one of the biggest social innovations driving health jobs, as Dr Anderson explains:
‘The NDIS has really revolutionised how Australians with a disability control and access support for daily living, employment, learning, recreation, and wellbeing. This has generated specialist jobs in support work and support planning – roles that help people to direct the services they want, and achieve greater independence in their lives.
‘It has also increased the demand for allied health, wellness and recreation services that are routinely used by people with disability,’ Dr Anderson says. ‘Employers will be targeting graduates who show the flexibility and creativity to work with a diverse consumer group, so skills in communication, problem-solving and collaboration are going to be increasingly valued across the industry.’
There are technology-driven job opportunities that don’t yet exist. ‘People who can use data to understand population health and wellbeing will be important,’ Prof. Riddell states. Because the future of health care relies on technology, there are many surprising emerging fields.
‘If people have an interest in robot design there’s a synergy with health,’ Prof. Riddell says, predicting a future where robotic companies are supplying more medical equipment. For example, refrigerated or heated robots might carry food to bedsides to improve the quality and safety of food in health care facilities. And given that we’re already seeing surgical robots and 3D printed body parts emerge as new realities, this is just the beginning.
‘The innovations springing from the intersection of health and technology are incredibly exciting,’ Dr Anderson elaborates. ‘Take for example the ways that virtual reality and game design are being applied to health contexts – for instance the use of VR to help carers better understand the experience of dementia, or to simulate complex midwifery scenarios for nursing students.
‘We are also seeing an explosion of “smart home” technology to ensure older people and those with disability can remain living in their own home safely and with more independence.’
Although it might seem technology could make some careers redundant in coming years, Prof. Riddell says that’s not the case. ‘Health is a human business. Humans aren’t going anywhere. It’s a growth area because our population is growing. We have a diversity of needs,’ she says.
'Health is a human business. Humans aren’t going anywhere. It’s a growth area because our population is growing. We have a diversity of needs.'
Associate Professor Lynn Riddell,
Associate Dean, Faculty of Health, Deakin University
For those experiencing uncertainty about which health positions to pursue, Prof. Riddell recommends thinking about primary interests and passions. Ask yourself, ‘What motivates me? What are my skills? What careers in health are aligned with that?’ She also suggests establishing whether you like working with individuals, groups or using data to understand large segments of society.
Dr Anderson highlights the importance of having a multidisciplinary grounding in health, no matter which sector you want to work in. ‘Multidisciplinary and even transdisciplinary practice is increasingly emphasised in a range of sectors including rehabilitation, oncology, mental health, disability and aged care.
‘Having diverse areas of expertise means that you will be able to bring that multidisciplinary knowledge to any team or client you end up working with,’ she says.
Health is just one of many industries facing big changes over time. Prof. Riddell reiterates that a range of abilities may be applied to future careers. Health care professionals will need to be ‘multi-skilled and multi-faceted. It’s a career that can take an individual from the bedside to the laboratory and beyond,’ she concludes.
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