As Houston’s economy continues to recover from the oil and gas downturn, the health care job market in the Greater Houston area—including Cy-Fair—has proven to be resilient as the area population and demand for services continue to rise.
In December 2015, the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual employment forecast predicted around 9,000 health care jobs would be added during 2016, said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at GHP.
“So far [from January to August], we created 7,200 jobs [in the health care industry], so the numbers seem to be on track,” he said.
Job market shift
The University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business reports the region lost nearly 25,000 oil production and services jobs and more than 29,000 manufacturing jobs from December 2014 to July 2016. Hospital officials say these losses could explain why many workers are now moving to work in the health care industry.
“Memorial Hermann is seeing more and more people seeking employment in health care,” said Tanya Cook, vice president of talent acquisition and premier staffing for Memorial Hermann Health System. “That’s due largely to the downturn in oil and energy business. While our primary need is for health care clinicians, we are always looking for talented people for nonclinical jobs, such as accounting and finance, and information and technology.”
Nearly 1 in 9 jobholders in the Greater Houston area now works in health care, and the sector has added nearly 50,000 jobs in the past five years, according to the GHP.
Jankowski said two factors most contribute to the growth in health care jobs: the natural population increase from babies born in the area and an aging population. He said about 30,000 residents turn 65 years old each year.
“If you think about how Houston’s [metro]population has grown, our population has doubled over the last 30 years,” he said.
Hospital officials and market experts agree the population increase is driving much of the market growth, steering it away from downtown Houston toward the suburbs.
Although the Texas Medical Center is still one of the largest employers for health care workers, large hospital systems are looking outside Loop 610 for new facility locations, Jankowski said.
“You’ve seen with health care—whether it’s the hospitals or urgent care centers or patient care centers—migrating to the suburbs,” he said. “That comes from good business sense. They’re trying to put their facilities as close to people as possible.”
In Cypress, care providers believe transportation projects along the Grand Parkway and Hwy. 290 will be major population drivers and have been targeting the area as a result. Among those providers is Memorial Hermann, which opened a Convenient Care Center in March and plans to open its 81-bed Cypress Hospital next April. Both facilities are a part of the same campus in the Fairfield area off Hwy. 290.
Of the Greater Houston area ZIP codes with the highest demand for health care services, three are in the Northwest Houston area—77433, 77429 and 77377, said Scott Barbe, senior vice president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital.
“We recognize that people don’t want to drive very far for high-quality health care, so we are committed to bringing it to them,” Barbe said. “That kind of population will support a wide range of services—everything from pediatric care to emergency services.”
The new hospital will house eight operating rooms, a 16-bed intensive care unit, a neonatal ICU, a cardiac catheterization lab and a Memorial Hermann Life Flight helipad.
Keeping in line with demand, local higher education providers are expanding health care education offerings to prepare students for the workforce.
Statewide, the demand for nurses has grown in recent years due to population increases and life longevity, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
Lone Star College System’s nursing program—which is offered at five campuses, including LSC-CyFair—is the largest program offered by LSCS, said Linda Luehrs-Wolfe, LSC-Kingwood dean of sciences and health occupations.
“[Program] offerings are determined by several factors, including space and availability of jobs—which continues to grow for nursing,” she said. “We develop our programs in [conjunction]with the various health care providers in the region to ensure they are able to hire a well-trained workforce.”
LSCS is working with the Texas Legislature to create a program offering baccalaureate degrees in nursing, said Amos McDonald, LSC vice chancellor of external affairs.
“There is a huge demand for health care workers, and allowing Lone Star College to offer four-year degrees in this field will help ensure our community has the ‘people power’ to keep up with the need,” he said.
Jankowski said growth in the health care market will likely continue as the area’s steady population increase shows no signs of slowing down. Factored into the net population growth of 10.9 percent over the past five years for Harris County, the area will continue to see a need for more health care services in the years to come, Jankowski said.
“As long as mankind is around, health care will be a strong field,” Jankowski said.