Healthcare is Not Recession Proof
One of the things we have always taken as gospel is healthcare is pretty recession proof because people will always need healthcare services. My dad used to say "people will always need to eat and will always get sick" when describing the most stable professions to get into. Economists and popular writers pretty much second that statement.
With the economy in a tailspin worldwide, companies folding and the unemployment rate going up, one wonders if healthcare will still be immune. I was speaking to a nurse just yesterday who said the agency for which she works is now calling her less for last minute assignments at area hospitals. In her last paycheck they also sent out a memo saying the traditional bonuses (based on nurses most willing to take last minute shifts and work in some hospitals) would be scaled back this quarter.
While people will use healthcare if they absolutely must, healthcare is not going to be totally unaffected by the recession. Elective procedures will be delayed because of more pressing priorities. People are losing health insurance along with jobs so hospitals and doctors will see lower revenues, a higher level of unreimbursed care and bad debt.
Some hospitals might scale back services or close patient floors. The use of per diem staff will decrease and regular employees might have to work more unattractive hours or face a cut in their hours.
I have friends in different healthcare professions who, due to job cuts in other industries in the last 4 months, have suddenly become the only bread winner in a family where previously both spouses worked.
I was asked by a friend in retail to give some suggestions on how to weather the recession. Actually, the same advice holds true for most people, including those of us in healthcare:
- Start stashing away as much cash as you can each paycheck. Experts suggest an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months that is very liquid and easy to get to (savings or money market).
- Make yourself as visible and indispensable as possible at work, from volunteering to work extra to offering suggestions to being visible to your boss. You need to be the person first thought of as a "go to" person and therefore one of the last considered for lay off.
- Be flexible with your schedule. Now is not the time to argue about working nights or weekends. In fact, you might be proactive and come up with creative ideas such as four 10 hour shifts to provide cross-shift coverage while saving on gas by going to work 4 days instead of 5.
- Consider taking a second job. Interestingly, many part-time jobs will crop up as organizations try to staff up only "as needed." This should allow you to increase income while hedging your bets in case one of the employers cuts back.
- Like everyone else, reduce consumption wherever possible.
I am interested to see if anyone has been affected by the recession so far, and also what everyone is doing (yes, "everyone!") to minimize the effects of the downturn in the economy.