How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Job Security in Healthcare?

Written by: Dr. Nisha Cooch
Published on: Jun 25, 2020

Job Security

Healthcare is an industry that is generally associated with excellent job security. Physicians, for instance, have in the past enjoyed a level of confidence in their ability to get and keep a lucrative enough job that they have not shied away from the financial burden of medical education. They have frequently even purchased houses during their residency years while earning relatively little money.

Job security for physicians was declining even before the pandemic

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the level of job security for physicians was already declining. The disruption accompanying technology, challenges related to our healthcare system, and other factors had been threatening the traditional concept of the highly secure physician career. To combat the problem of physician shortages, medical schools had begun accepting more students, but the number of residency positions were not keeping up – the result being an increasing number of people with medical degrees who are unable to continue their training beyond medical school and thus to access the jobs they assumed would be there for them.

COVID-19 has revealed more holes in physician job security

In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, the abrupt and massive halt of medical care not related to the virus has led physicians to be furloughed and have their pay reduced. Months without performing elective procedures is something that most physicians and physicians-in-training had not before imagined.

In addition to a potential lack of demand for medical services, physicians and healthcare workers had likely not considered that their economic security could depend on their willingness to care for patients in a potentially unsafe environment that could threaten their own health. For those on the frontlines, COVID-19 has presented this difficult choice for many healthcare workers, especially those who at risk for severe infection, such as older healthcare workers and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Nurse thinking

The upside: With change comes opportunity

The news is not all bad when it comes to how COVID-19 has affected the healthcare workforce. Nurses, for instance, continue to be in high demand across the country, and their ability to secure work does not seem to be in jeopardy. With changing healthcare needs, new roles have also arisen, such as the role of the temperature checker. With scores of organizations aiming to do temperature checks at their doors, the need for people to facilitate this practice is on the rise.

Takeaway: The healthcare sector was once viewed as recession proof. In fact, unlike what is seen in other industries, healthcare jobs tend to grow during recessions. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has demonstrated how even this industry can fall victim to changing circumstances. As the outbreak has deterred people from utilizing the healthcare system, the demand for certain types of healthcare workers has declined. While it is likely that demand will pick back up as people begin to resume their activities, the long-term impact of the virus on healthcare job security remains to be seen.