Extensive training, education, and skills are essential in meeting the needs and demands of the population for safe, competent healthcare. These specialized techniques and skills that healthcare professionals acquired through systematic programs of intellectual study are the basis for socialization into their profession. Healthcare professionals are central to the delivery of high-quality healthcare services.
The distinction between an occupation and a profession is important because the evolving process of healthcare delivery requires professionals who are empowered to make decisions in the absence of direct supervision. An occupation enables workers to provide services, but it does not require skill specialization. An occupation is a principal activity that supports one’s livelihood. However, it is different from a profession in several ways. An occupation typically does not require higher skill specialization. An individual in an occupation is usually supervised, adheres to a defined work schedule, and earns an hourly wage rate.
A profession requires specialized knowledge and training that enable professionals to gain more authority and responsibility and to provide service that adheres to a code of ethics. A professional usually has more autonomy in determining the content of the service he or she provides and in monitoring the workload needed to do so. A professional generally earns a salary, requires higher education, and works with more independence and mobility than do nonprofessionals.
Healthcare professionals work in a variety of settings, including hospitals; ambulatory care centers; managed care organizations; long-term care organizations; mental health organizations; pharmaceutical companies; community health centers; physician offices; laboratories; research institutions; and schools of medicine, nursing, and allied health professions. The primary reasons for the increased supply and demand for healthcare professionals include the following interrelated forces:
Changes in third-party coverage
The aging of the population
The proliferation of new and diverse healthcare delivery settings
The art of caring, combined with the science of healthcare, is the essence of nursing. Nursing focus not only on a particular health problem but also on the whole patient and his or her response to treatment. The supply of nurses and allied health professionals is reflected in the number of students in educational programs and those available for the healthcare workforce.
Future supply of such professionals continues to be threatened by the following factors:
The aging of the nursing workforce
The decline in available educational resources
The decline in nursing school enrollees