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Unlocking the potential of allied health roles for a thriving health care system

In the complex world of health care, doctors and nurses often take center stage. But behind them is a much larger team supporting the delivery of exceptional care. Allied health professionals – like radiology and surgery technicians – play an essential role in health care, and it’s time we shine a brighter light on the importance of these roles and the tremendous opportunities they present for those seeking a career in health care.

These unsung heroes hold the keys to more than just X-rays and surgical instruments; they unlock doors to promising careers with low barriers to entry, increasing pay, and robust demand. These roles are not just good jobs; they are pathways to a healthier, more prosperous future.

Let’s start with the numbers – the average radiology technician in the Boston area, where I work as the chief operating officer of a hospital, earns around $75,000 per year. Often, these roles include signing bonuses and other incentives. As the need for diagnostic imaging and surgical procedures continues to rise with an aging population, the demand for skilled radiology and operating room technicians is soaring. In fact, 85 percent of hospitals report a shortage of these allied health professionals. This translates into job security, competitive salaries, and solid prospects for growth in these fields.

One of the most compelling aspects of these careers is the low barrier to entry. While the road to becoming a doctor or nurse can be long and financially burdensome, training as a radiology or operating room technician is comparatively quicker and more affordable. Many programs can be completed in two years at a local community college at a total cost of less than one semester at most four-year colleges. As our society grapples with the ever-increasing burden of student loan debt, these allied health roles offer a practical and appealing alternative.

Promoting these professions and expanding education programs is essential to meet the growing demand for skilled technicians.

Where I serve as a chief operating officer, we’ve taken strides to create partnerships with local academic institutions, such as Middlesex Community College and Bunker Hill Community College, to develop training programs that bridge the gap between education and the workforce. These initiatives are strengthening the school-to-work pathway and ensuring that students are well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities that await them in the health care industry.

By emphasizing the value of allied health roles like radiology and operating room technicians, we are not only addressing critical workforce shortages but also nurturing an environment where well-compensated, fulfilling careers are within reach for aspiring health care professionals. These roles are not merely “good jobs”; they are gateways to a brighter future, for individuals and for our health care system.

It’s high time we invest in, promote, and celebrate the skilled workers who play an integral part in keeping us healthy and thriving.

Eric Stastny is a health care executive.

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