Canada’s population is ageing. The Baby Boomers are getting older. And 2016 marked the first time when we had more seniors (5.9 million) than children aged 14 and under (5.8 million), according to StatCan.
“Because we’re living longer, people are seeking an optimal quality of health,” said Sydney Saviskoff, a senior advisor, allied health strategist at Alberta Health Services (AHS).
The current health needs of our population may require additional support related to certain occupations. The future outlook for these professions is very stable and worth your consideration if you're planning a career in healthcare. These fields are oncology, speech-language pathology, gerontology, audiology and rural communities.
Oncology has registered nurses who specialize in providing care for cancer patients and their families across the disease trajectory; this includes prevention, screening, diagnostics, staging, treatment, follow-up, survivorship care and palliation.
Oncology nurses also play an essential role in educating the patient and their family about their diagnosis, treatment plans and self-management strategies. At Alberta Health Services, the nurses work primarily in hospitals, ambulatory cancer centres and community cancer clinics.
The job opportunities within oncology can vary, but it’s a field that’s continuously growing, said Tammy Syrnyk, senior advisor, talent acquisition-provincial nursing at AHS.
Some job positions in oncology include nursing, rehabilitation and therapeutic occupations, as well as positions specific to cancer treatment such as radiologist or research (research scientists and epidemiologist.)
Oncology nurses are very passionate about their work and find it very fulfilling.
Speech-Language Pathology (SLP)
Speech-language pathologists (or SLPs) "work with children and adults to help prevent, assess, diagnose and treat people with speech, language and swallowing disorders," Saviskoff said. They would be responsible for providing identification, assessment, planning, coordination and delivery of acute and community-based care services to clients.
SLPs can work with a range of patients and healthcare concerns in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, school and client homes. “It’s very flexible,” Saviskoff said.
SLP positions are in high demand because of the limited number of graduates in Canada. Saviskoff says more Canadian students are heading south to get into an SLP program. Due to the supply shortage, new SLP professionals can always find positions posted for them. They’re required in rural, urgent care, urban, acute and community settings.
Once new health professionals find jobs as an SLP at AHS, they would start as a Speech Language Pathologist II, the entry-level position. Once they’ve honed their skills, they’re able to apply to the Speech Language Pathologist III position, which is more of a professional practice lead position where they’re responsible for the coordination for the day-to-day assignments, Saviskoff said.
As Canada’s population ages, there’s a growing need for health professionals of different occupations to support their care and long-term health. Gerontology nurses focus on the promotion of wellness, independence and choice within an interdisciplinary team environment.
Gerontology is an excellent area for new health professionals to "start their career and increase their skill, knowledge and comfort level with the delivery of the health service, and define what area of practice they're most passionate about," Syrnyk said.
Syrnyk added that there are still some preconceived notions about gerontology, but she says it’s an excellent way for novice professionals to kick-start their career.
Some of the duties new health professionals do in gerontology include the participation in planning, implementation and evaluation of geriatric care and related issues that promote the highest quality of care for older adults and their families; gerontological nursing research; case management and coordination of access to an identified need and palliative end-of-life care.
Audiologists “work with children and adults to prevent, assess, diagnose and provide treatment and counselling for hearing and balance disorders,” Saviskoff said. It’s a great field for those who want to work with both children and adults, she adds.
Audiologists can work in a variety of settings and with a range of patients and healthcare concerns, including hospitals or clinics, or collaborate with other healthcare professionals in research, policy development and management.
Audiology is a highly sought-after profession, mainly because there is a limited number of graduates across Canada, Saviskoff said.
“We only have a couple of schools that have [audiologists], so there are more positions for an audiologist than there are graduating numbers from an audiology school,” she said. “We call audiologists kind of like unicorns … when you find one, you try to hold on to them.”
When audiologists first enter AHS, they come in as an Audiologist I, and they can work toward an Audiologist III position. For new health professionals, audiology offers a lot of flexibility about where you can live since they are in demand in both small communities and big urban centres, Saviskoff said.
Rural opportunities for new health professionals “tend to be a more generalist model of nursing care for delivery, meaning they might be working within an acute care facility, but have an opportunity to work in various departments such as emergency, operating room or palliative care,” Syrnyk said.
Working in rural and smaller communities can provide a beautiful, peaceful home, lots of outdoor activity and the opportunity to grow your career. There are day-to-day variety and opportunities for additional training and professional growth. It includes a multitude of practice options throughout the continuum of care, such as acute care, emergency, operating room, cancer care and continuing care facilities, home care and public health.
“There’s also a variety of nursing skills and competencies required to work in a rural generalist nursing position. They know a little bit about everything. And it’s a great way to consolidate skills and knowledge,” Syrnyk said.
Rural communities need a range of healthcare professionals, from diagnostic and laboratory technicians to nurses and health care aides to care for patients and home care/long-term care clients.
“We always encourage our new graduates to look at rural practice because it just gives them a little bit of everything if they’re not exactly sure what area of practice they want to specialize in,” Syrnyk said.