The majority of people think of nurses, paramedics, physicians, and midwives as the key professionals within healthcare. However, there are hundreds of careers in the US medical industry for people who have an interest in health. From phlebotomists to occupational therapists and medical assistants, there are numerous opportunities to consider.
Whatever skills you have to offer and whatever qualifications you have, you can likely find an exciting post to match your interests. Once you’ve chosen an educational path and completed the necessary training, the first stage of your career can get underway. However, you will always have the chance to improve your skills and even learn new ones, as the healthcare profession is supportive of lifelong learning.
There are a number of routes into healthcare
Some people enter the medical industry from other successful careers, while others enter clinical practice straight from university. Whatever route you take into health, you will be part of a well-respected profession where everyone works together to provide excellent patient care. Here’s a closer look at some of the most exciting careers available to people who are passionate about caring for others.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) or nurse practitioners are some of the most qualified people in the healthcare sector. It is a very in-demand role and one of the fastest growing in the sector. Today’s NPs deliver a service that is very much like that of the average physician, and they work independently, without the need for a senior colleague to oversee their day-to-day decisions. NPs are found in ambulatory care, as well as in preventative and primary care settings. NPs are employed by clinics and healthcare centers, but they can also be part of the team in outpatient departments and hospital wards. To provide excellent quality, coordinated care, they liaise with teams that include nurses, physicians, and surgeons. A master’s degree is a standard requirement for prospective nurse practitioners, and it is possible to graduate within four years if students work towards accelerated qualifications.
Physicians diagnose injuries and medical conditions and then work out a plan for the patient’s treatment. They can also manage various types of injury and administer preventative care. Physicians can be found in clinical or non-clinical environments. These include hospitals, clinics, private practices, and non-profits. After gaining experience, many physicians elect to open a local practice and offer care to a regular group of patients. Physicians can choose one of many career paths. The specialties open to them include intensive care, gynecology, oncology, and pediatrics. It will usually take over ten years to train as a physician. Even so, extra tuition and a residency are required to qualify with a sub-specialization or to work independently. For those willing to undertake the training, this is a very rewarding career with excellent remuneration and many opportunities for professional growth.
Although this is one of the medical industry’s largest professions, the number of RNs needed continues to grow, year after year. In their day-to-day work, RNs must take on many different roles to ensure the best patient outcomes. Their key responsibility is ensuring patients get the care they require. Their work involves assessing the needs of each person on their watch and implementing the care plan established by a medical team. They will then provide the appropriate treatments and monitor how well the plan is working. Whether nurses are employed in a physician’s private practice, a hospital, or a clinic, they conduct the care package per their employer’s standards and policies. Nurses frequently provide life-saving care, and therefore it can take up to four years to qualify, although some fast-track schemes are available.
What can you do with a master’s in nursing? Prospective nurses should consider the courses on offer at Elmhurst. Their Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice Programme (MENP) is designed for people who hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field but are hoping to become a nurse. As well as being taught all the competencies required to be an excellent RN, you will be readied for a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) certification, which paves the way for more senior positions.
Medical assistants are in demand across the US. They work alongside physicians to carry out various clinical tasks as well as many administrative duties. Along with monitoring a patient’s vital signs and assisting with examinations, they collect samples and ensure these are tested at the lab. Patient liaison is an important part of a medical assistant’s work, as they can explain complex procedures and put patients at ease before their treatment begins. Their work frees physicians to see and treat more patients, and as such, they can keep waiting lists under control. Most medical assistants work in primary care settings such as outpatient departments, ambulatory care, and medical clinics. Training for this role takes between ten months and two years, depending on the program that is pursued.
Occupational therapy assistant
As the population ages, the need for occupational therapy assistants is soaring. People become more susceptible to conditions such as strokes and arthritis as they age, which can impact their ability to perform daily tasks. OTAs work with patients to help them develop the skills required to live a full and independent life. They may also assist people with disabilities or injuries to tackle day-to-day living, whatever the challenges may be. OTAs work on a person’s motor and cognitive skills using various tools and exercise programs. These can strengthen the patient’s muscles and provide respite from pain. OTAs can work alongside an occupational therapist or help to put the patient’s treatment plan into practice alone. An OTA might visit patients in their homes or work at a hospital, a recovery facility, or a clinic. Training to be an OTA includes achieving an associate degree and may take around sixteen months full-time.
Home health aide
As older people make up an ever-increasing percentage of the population, home health aides ensure they can live independently for longer. Most works in a patient’s home, but others are employed by a healthcare facility that offers long-term or respite care. Patients who need an HHA usually have a disability caused by age, although they may have a general disability, a cognitive condition, or a combination of these. HHAs help them with daily tasks, such as dressing, cleaning, and cooking. They also monitor and record their patient’s health and ensure they are taking care of themselves properly. If they spot a potential problem, they report these concerns to a registered nurse or another healthcare professional involved in the patient’s care. Individual states have established training requirements for home health aides, but most programs take only a few months.
Health information technician
The medical industry is being transformed by healthcare IT, and some of the key people involved are health information technicians. Also referred to as medical records technicians, HITs are tasked with maintaining the digital records of healthcare facilities. HITs do this by inspecting the data regularly to make sure it remains accurate, is easy to access, and is readable. As the industry continues the transition to digital records, HITs help by finding software programs to manage these processes and technologies that ensure the data remains secure. When a request for information is sent for authorization or a legal request, they gather and provide the necessary data. HITs also support administrative staff by establishing registries and databases which can be used for data analysis or insurance payment monitoring. HITs usually have a bachelor’s degree in a related field and will take an exam to become a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). The training for this role can take up to four years.
Respiratory therapists work closely with a patient’s physician to diagnose a condition and keep it well-managed. They specialize in problems with breathing and the lungs, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, and bronchitis. However, they will handle most airway problems, regardless of what the issue stems from. RTs work in outpatient clinics, sleep centers, and hospitals. They can also be found in intensive care units or emergency rooms, helping patients of all ages. Part of their role includes health maintenance, so they advise on preventing a flair-up, following a treatment plan accurately, and calling for help when necessary. To become a respiratory therapist, students need to complete a bachelor’s degree followed by credential examinations. Most states also require practitioners to obtain a license before starting work. The entire training process can take two to four years.
Whether blood is drawn for transfusions, donations, or tests, phlebotomists manage the process. Sometimes the tests carried out are done for the benefit of an individual patient, but blood can also be taken for wider research purposes. As well as taking blood from veins, they learn to extract smaller samples from capillaries in the ear, heel, or finger. Occasionally phlebotomists manage other samples, including stools, urine, and hair. Phlebotomists must pay attention to detail, so each sample is labeled correctly, but people skills are another crucial part of this role. In general, the training takes under a year, though further state certification is required before a newly qualified phlebotomist can begin work.
Diagnostic medical sonographer
A diagnostic medical sonographer operates a selection of imaging tools in a clinic, hospital, or physician’s practice. Sometimes they will work at the bedside of a patient, but most are based in a dedicated room with their equipment around them. This includes echocardiograms, sonograms, and ultrasound machines. During each process, the equipment they use forms images called ultrasounds that highlight particular areas of the body. These are passed to a physician who interprets them to diagnose a patient’s condition and establish a course of treatment. Part of a DMSs work involves preparing people for the procedure they are about to have and explaining what is happening during the examination. They work with patients of all ages, and some choose to specialize in a particular field, such as gynecologic or vascular sonographers. DMSs usually have an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. They also complete certificate programs with a relevant organization, such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.
Pharmacists are professional healthcare workers with a broad knowledge of prescription medications. They can provide patients with advice on how certain drugs work, how they should be taken, what the potential side effects could be, and whether they will interact with other medications. Although another professional is in charge of prescribing medications, it is the pharmacists who dispense these and can give advice on their use. Many are qualified to give vaccinations or carry out certain health screenings. Pharmacists are employed in many areas of the healthcare industry. As well as working in independent pharmacies, they can also be found in the drug dispensary of a clinic, hospital, or senior facility. Trainee pharmacists can choose from several routes when entering the profession. They can take an undergraduate degree followed by a pharmacy doctorate or choose a standalone pharmacy qualification. Therefore, the time taken to qualify can vary between four and six years.
Why choose healthcare?
Due to the continuing shortage of healthcare workers in the US and around the world, this employment sector is one of the country’s most in-demand. An aging population, changes in healthcare provision, and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic mean it will carry on expanding for the foreseeable future. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts healthcare occupations to grow by 13% between 2021 and 2031, faster than the average rate for any other group. For anyone hoping to work in healthcare, job security is a given. Moreover, this is a rewarding profession with many different career options and new avenues opening up every year. Whether you are looking for an immediate entry point into the industry, hoping to train, or retraining for a senior position, there has never been a better time to do so.