Health Education Career
Is the field of health education in high demand?
The availability of jobs in this field can vary greatly depending on factors such as location, employment setting (university, hospital, or other), and what specific field of health education you specialize in. However, the general trend seems to be a need for health related professionals continuing to increase, and the need for health related educators following suite. These individuals typically start out working in the health care field and eventually evolve to a career in health education where they're able to share their experiences to help others become competent health care providers. For instance, a nurse may work in the field of nursing for a certain length of time and then decide she wants to make the switch to teaching nursing at the local college.
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However, if the health educator plays more of a research role at a university, they are able to earn quite lofty salaries. Their pay is contingent on the number of grants they are able to secure since those monies fund the research. For instance, an individual who
What are the hours like as a health educator?
The hours, like with most fields, can vary greatly in health education. Some health educators work a full time day job in a health care field and then teach health classes part time in the evenings. Other professionals make a career out of health education and teach at a college or university full time. If your goal is to make a career out of health education, the first few years of teaching are typically the most strenuous since you're developing lectures and materials for the first time.
One of the benefits of a job in health education is that the work hours are typically self-directed and can be chosen by the health educator. For instance, if they are teaching classes at a college or university they can request which days or times they'd prefer to teach. Another benefit to hours is that many professionals in this field get summers off and long breaks around holiday time since the students are not in session during those periods. However, instructors of course have to take tests and papers home to grade, which can cut into their personal life at times. If you're a clinical educator this may be different because you are likely scheduled to a shift.
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What traits should someone possess who wants to pursue this field?
To excel in health education, first and foremost you must be an excellent communicator, both in speech and writing. You also must possess an analytical mindset because healthcare is so dynamic. This involves being able to look at research and critically evaluate it. Organization skills are a must-have as well as being able to see the bigger picture while still focusing in on the finer points. This is an especially crucial trait to have as a clinical educator.
According to Hayden, there are two different approaches to teaching a student a certain task; showing them how to do it or helping them develop the thought process that will get them there. In healthcare, helping students have the thought process to get to a result is more beneficial than showing them the skill. Otherwise students may memorize how their instructor does a certain exercise and not understand why they're doing it. "After I've done two or three shoulder rehabs a year my students will start mimicking the exercises but if you stop and ask them why you're doing this kind of exercises they may not know," said Hayden. "You want to avoid a cook-book approach to treatments.? Each patient is different; therefore, their treatment should be individualized. If a student can develop the thought processes to develop their own treatment plans then they have truly been educated."
Being able to relate to your students is also essential. Empathizing and having the ability to motivate students who each have different personalities and backgrounds is key. Students have lives and life challenges outside the classroom and it is most important that they are learning the material, even if each student learns in their own unique way. According to Connie Weber, professor of athletic training at a health care specific graduate school in Arizona, "When a student fails an exam in one of my classes, I was not so concerned that they failed the exam, but why they failed it, what could have been done for them not to fail it, and then I would ask them if they felt like they gained knowledge, but just were not able to show that knowledge on the exam."
Does working in health care fields prior to transitioning to health education enhance that role?
The majority of health educators worked in a health related field prior to moving to a teaching role. Having a strong foundation in their given field prior to teaching is essential. This experience helps the health educator use concrete scenarios and illustrations when providing examples to their students.
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Healthcare is also a unique field in that all professionals truly educate their patients on a regular basis. While doing any type of treatment on a patient, a good healthcare provider explains a patient's condition, their treatment options, how to prevent illness or disease and how to improve their general health. Healthcare education is also unique in that proper training involves more than just sitting in a classroom. Clinical settings are available, and many times required, for hands on learning. This means health educators comprise not just the instructors who lecture at the college setting, but clinicians in the field who are helping students and interns with clinical rotations. For example, an athletic training student must have a certain number of hours practicing in the field before they are able to sit for their certification exam. They may be assigned a local athletic team to work with or a physical sports medicine clinic where they learn from skilled professionals in the field. These professionals are also health educators in that they're teaching and training others the necessary skills for the given profession. Many healthcare professionals serve as clinical educators prior to transitioning into the academic side of the field.
Some health educators continue to work in the health care field and teach part or full time. The balance between working in the field and teaching it can complement each other nicely.