Health Education—Taking a closer look into this high-demand field
Health education is a very rewarding field that is a lot more challenging than most realize. According to Janelle Wright, Assistant Professor of Nursing at a private university in Illinois, "[health education] involves more than just informing someone of health related facts and skills...it involves having very strong communication skills and is more of a collaborative or coaching process as we help people make decisions for themselves about any changes they wish to adopt in their lives." Wright continues by saying that the field of health education involves maintaining strong relationship-centered skills and bridging cultural differences. It also involves honoring another person's worldview and maintaining her or his dignity. All of these skills are in addition to being resourceful and knowledgeable about new developments in healthcare.
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Let's start with some of the common questions people may have regarding this field.
What different settings can a health educator work in?
There's such a wide spectrum of educational opportunities in health care. Some of these areas may include university or college instructor/professor, researcher, clinical educator, patient educator, and public health educator. Let's explore each of these settings a bit further.
- Universities or College Instructor: Instructors or professors at universities and colleges lay out the foundation of their specific healthcare specialty to provide students with the nuts and bolts of skills and knowledge they need in their respective field.
- Researcher: Oftentimes professors at universities also serve the dual role of being a researcher, though there are individuals who only conduct research without the teaching aspect. Research universities hire professionals to perform research to advance the field.
- Clinical Educator:These professionals work in their respective field and serve as a mentor or trainer for students working on clinical rotations to gain hands-one experience.
- Patient Educator: This title could run the gamut of professionals it applies to from diabetes educator to any health care professional who is explaining a procedure to a patient.
- Public Health: These professionals can be involved in any type of education that promotes healthy lifestyles and prevents injury and disease for communities as a whole.
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What daily tasks does this career entail?
In the university setting, there are a number of different aspects to the job. Some of these include administrative aspects such as advising students, design and implementation of lectures, labs and hands-on instruction, grading papers and exams, and assessment. Assessment involves much more than just grading exams. Healthcare involves ensuring students can display proficiencies in certain tasks through clinical demonstration before they're able to move on. Designing new courses is another task some health educators have. Also, most health programs have to be accredited and securing accreditation or reaccreditation is a huge task with many components. Some educators review and write textbooks and other educational materials.
For professors employed at research universities, grant writing is a major part of their job. Research entails funding for lab time and materials. Organizations have money set aside for studies on specific topics that are pertinent to their field. Professors involved in research write grant proposals to obtain the necessary money to conduct their research. They are competing against other professors submitting proposals to gain the grant money. Oftentimes professors who research are also educators in their given field. For these individuals part of their job entails guiding and coaching students through research studies and grant writing.