If you are a medical professional or you’re considering becoming one, the job market will continue to thrive, because there will always be a need in the medical field for professionals to care for patients. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of RNs to increase 7% by 2029, which is a faster than average rate than other occupations (BLS, 2021).
The facts prove that nursing jobs are in high demand, but there are a lot of variations for job titles and roles within the broader spectrum of nursing and healthcare jobs. Whether you’re a new nurse or PT discovering opportunities for your future or a seasoned professional wondering what’s next, it’s important to know what your options are for your medical career.
Let’s dive into long term vs short term care, and how to decide what’s best for you.
What Is the Difference Between Short Term and Long Term Healthcare
Short term health care has a definitive outcome, and its goal is to get the body back in working order, such as a minor injury or illness that needs care for a short time for the patient to become well again. Short term care for a patient can range from a couple of days to a few weeks of time.
Long term care requires a long period of patient care, such as treatment for chronic illness, disabilities, or elderly care. The period of care for long term patients varies; it can range from multiple weeks through a patient’s lifetime, depending upon the situation.
To summarize, short term care is temporary and focuses on specific goals to achieve, while long term care is indefinite and focuses on comprehensive treatment.
Types of Job Activities for Long Term and Short Term Healthcare
Depending upon if you are a nurse, a PT, or another type of allied healthcare worker, your base job description will be similar for patient care in your respective position. However, daily activities on the job will vary for healthcare professionals in long term vs. short term care jobs.
Here are a few examples of daily tasks in short term vs. long term roles:
For nurses, short term care tasks may include:
- • Checking vital signs
- • Conducting physical exams
- • Taking notes on healthcare histories and updating patient files
- • Analyzing physical and emotional needs of patients
- • Coordinating with other healthcare professionals
- • Drawing blood and performing other testing as needed
For nurses, long term care tasks may include:
- • IV therapy
- • Chronic wound care
- • Helping patients with range of motion exercises
- • Long-term catheter care
- • Frequent vital sign checks
- • Respiratory therapy
For physical therapists, short term care tasks may include:
- • Consulting with patients on symptoms about their physical condition
- • Diagnosing and developing treatment plans
- • Teaching patients techniques on therapeutic exercises
- • Assisting and training patients on how to use equipment for mobility
- • Updating and maintaining patient records, goals, and progress
For physical therapists, long term care tasks may include:
- • Creating consultative patient treatment plans
- • Teaching patients how to properly exercise and move
- • Helping restore mobility for patients
- • Documenting progress
- • Advising patients and families about ongoing treatment, in-home options, and exercises
Long term care involves a lot of collaboration with other medical professionals such as case managers, social workers, speech pathologists, doctors, and others to determine the best ongoing treatment plans for patients as they age or recover, depending upon their needs.
Breaking It Down: The Main Differentiators to Keep in Mind
Outside of daily tasks that encompass the roles of short term vs long term healthcare roles, you may be wondering what the biggest differentiators are if you’re considering long term care as a profession.
The first aspect to consider is relationships.
If you enjoy a fast-paced job where you get to meet lots of patients on a daily basis, short term care is likely ideal for you. However, if you enjoy thinking about the big picture to support all aspects of a patient’s health and how it will affect them each day moving forward while building long-lasting relationships, long term care may be a better fit.
Many long term care nurses and therapists enjoy their jobs because they see it as a holistic method of care. As you treat long term patients, you’re thinking about and caring for all aspects of their treatment as you build a trustworthy bond, including physical, mental, and emotional support.
Of course, short term healthcare professionals also form these types of bonds, but it is on a smaller scale.
Secondly, you should consider your career path.
The great thing about the medical field is that you can begin your career early on, even without a degree, and choose to pursue more education as you go to further your goals.
As a nurse, you can move from CNA to LPN to RN and then to BSN-RN and beyond. Within the facility that you work, there may be opportunities to become a supervisor or trainer as you become an expert in your focus area. Physical therapy and other specialty areas typically require more advanced degrees.
When you’re thinking about a career path as you consider short vs long term care, it may depend upon the healthcare system that you work for or the location that you work in. Consider asking about this during your interview process as you search for the right fit.
Since healthcare jobs are typically in high demand, you should have a lot of options when it comes to choosing your next steps. You can choose travel placement or permanent placement, home health care, a small office, or a large multi-location system.
One of the best ways to find out the best fit for you in all areas is to have someone you can go to with questions and walk through it.