Five life-giving careers in health care
Posted October 13, 2011, by Mike Kermode
Many of us would agree with Gandhi’s assertion that health, not money, is the real wealth. But have you ever thought about putting yourself in the healer’s seat?
Working in health care can be a challenging and rewarding experience. You’ll meet all kinds of people and also get a full appreciation of how precious and volatile our health can be.
Health is something the government is focused on too, with major budget allocations for hospitals and mental health in recent years. Here are five life-giving health vocations that are in constant demand, only a qualification away. One could be your next career.
A nurse is effectively the personification of health care, and there are fewer more respected – or more necessary – professions. Nursing is an incredibly worthwhile and meaningful profession and one of paramount importance to the health of individuals, families and communities the world over. Nurses enjoy a challenging and fast-paced environment, and the satisfaction of knowing they’re helping to save lives.
Nurses are also in demand. Always. Everywhere. With chronic nursing shortages plaguing the healthcare system, you’re pretty much guaranteed a job. It’s also a career that can take you to almost any destination in the world.
If you think nursing is all about taking temperatures and checking blood pressures, think again. A nurse’s training spans health science, social science, technology and theory, and the position demands great knowledge, energy and communication skills.
Registered nurses (RNs) can choose to specialise in areas such as paediatrics, mental health, disabilities, acute care and community care – pretty much any area where people need professional medical support.
Most nursing training courses involve an element of hands-on experience via work placement, but many programs can now be done via distance education.
As our population ages, and with the numbers of people with dementia set to rise from 250 000 to almost one million by 2050, caring for the elderly is poised to become a massive industry where demand will far outstrip supply of qualified professionals.
Like other health areas, working in aged care can be wonderfully gratifying, and it is a sure-fire way to make a big difference in someone’s life. It’s all about giving our older citizens the respect they deserve, and helping them continue to lead full and meaningful lives.
Armed with a qualification in aged care, you could work in a variety of clinical settings and roles. You could work as an assistant in nursing (AIN) or personal care assistant (PCA) in an aged care facility, or as a community support or home care worker, helping the elderly remain as independent as possible. One of the advantages of this kind of work is that much of it is part time, so you can be flexible with working hours.
Health doesn’t just relate to our physical state – it encompasses our mental wellbeing, too. With over one million Australians suffering from depression, and almost 500 000 with bipolar disorder, mental health care is an area of rapidly growing demand. The government’s recent $2 billion budget pledge to mental health services has flagged this as a priority area – and that means more jobs.
Notwithstanding good job prospects, working in mental health can be an extremely rewarding experience, helping people make the most of their opportunities and be self-content and productive.
Mardi Diles is program manager for dual diagnosis at Weave Youth Family Community in Sydney. She works with young people who experience coexisting mental health and substance abuse issues.
‘I believe mental health workers have a really important role in the community as they work with people who are often vulnerable, stigmatised, misunderstood and marginalised by mainstream society,’ says Diles.
‘Everyone has a story, and the best part of my role as a support worker and counsellor has been the privilege to hear people’s stories and life experiences – the ups, the downs and the turnarounds. I feel privileged to hear and support their hopes and dreams and the values they hold in their life.‘
Mental health roles come in a variety of guises, but in all cases you’ll be helping people live happier, healthier lives – through things like counselling, assessing the needs of people with drug or alcohol issues, or responding to individuals at risk of suicide.
For health practitioners and those specialising in this area, there are courses to get you working in the mental health sector. Pursuing a career in mental health has never been more worthwhile.
With so many people walking into chemists and depending on pharmacists for assistance and health advice every day, pharmacy is an integral part of modern health care. If drugs are to a large extent the bastions of modern medical treatment, then pharmacists are the gatekeepers.
Keen to be a pharmacist since high school, Hesham Mourad now works at a pharmacy in Sydney’s CBD. He has no doubts about pharmacy’s place in health services.
‘I find pharmacy interesting because we’re basically the face of the health system,’ says Mourad. ‘It can really make a difference to people’s health and how they take their medication. Not just self-medication off the shelf – it’s about how to administer the medication safely and make it more effective. In that way people can minimise clinical interventions with doctors and reduce hospitalisations.’
It’s not just patients that pharmacists counsel on prescription and over-the-counter medications. They also advise doctors and other health practitioners on issues like dosage, side effects of medications and drug interactions in different health contexts. For that, pharmacists like Hesham need to be savvy about human nutrition and physiology.
It’s a field that has many subdivisions – pharmacoepidemiology, pharmacogenetics, pharmacogenomics, psycho- and neuropharmacology. The sheer diversity of pharmacy means a wide range of opportunities for the pharmacy student. You can wind up working in a hospital or private pharmacy, the pharmaceutical industry, for government, in education, or in a host of care facilities.
Less hands-on but just as important are the workers behind the scenes who handle the complex administration of health care. Because of the amount and the complexity of the data involved, accurate documentation and record-keeping are essential, and with people’s lives at stake, the conscientious following of procedures and protocols could mean the difference between life and death.
While front-line healthcare workers do the direct work of patient care, medical administrators are just as vital to operations. From private clinics to hospitals, health administrators and managers keep the whole ship running smoothly. Modern health care wouldn’t exist without them, and they prove that you don’t need to be a heart surgeon to make a difference in health.
If you’re interested in a career in health administration, there are a range of courses to give you the necessary training.
This is just a taste of the options available in health care today. If you’re keen to join what is an exciting and honourable profession, one that’s about helping people in the purest sense, browse our diverse range of health courses.