HAP Blog

Jobs That Pay Off in More Ways Than One

May 14, 2015

Pennsylvania hospitals are proud of the part they play in providing “#JobsThatPay,” to borrow Governor Wolf’s apt phrase (and hashtag) and important goal.

The hospital community employs more than 270,000 people with a total annual payroll of nearly $15 billion. On average, these jobs pay more than $54,000 a year, well above Pennsylvania’s annual mean wage of $45,750.

Hospitals’ significant purchasing power (about $48 billion annually) generates another 319,000 jobs. All told, hospitals provide employment for more than 590,000 people, or about one of every ten jobs in the commonwealth. 

This strong, steady contribution to Pennsylvania’s job market is all the more important given recent employment trends.

According to a Penn State University study, Pennsylvania’s middle-wage jobs lost ground during the last three last economic cycles, including the upturn after the Great Recession. Pay raises faltered too, increasing more slowly than those for higher-wage jobs.

Pennsylvania hospitals see every day the impact that a job with a living wage—or the lack thereof—has on patients and families as they strive to maintain healthy lifestyles and prevent or manage chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others, socioeconomic factors such as employment, income, education, and family support account for about 40 percent of a person’s health status.

How fortunate, then, that the good jobs provided by hospitals attract people who, by their very nature, are determined to improve the lives of those around them, especially those who are most socially and economically disadvantaged.

An observation by a nationally known physician leader Dr. Marty Makary illustrates this phenomenon. When students applying to The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine are asked why they want to become physicians, their number one answer is: “Because I want a career where I can help those less fortunate than I am. Even if I have to do that on the side, outside of my job.”

Is it any wonder that a Lehigh Valley Health System started a farm to provide patients with healthy food? Or, that a Philadelphia academic medical center is helping low-skilled adults improve both their health and their career skills? Or, that Philadelphia hospitals are working together to purchase services and supplies locally, bringing more jobs to the city?

Hospitals and their employees feel compelled to attend to the underlying but powerful socioeconomic factors that shape the health of patients and communities, because these social determinants of health are standing in the way of a healthier Pennsylvania.

Good jobs that appeal to people who want to do good; that’s a winning combination for the health and economy of Pennsylvania.

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