Nov. 7, 2019
The world’s full of seemingly endless healthcare resources, from web-based encyclopedias to wearable technology that tracks your heartbeat, steps, and diet. However, it can be a challenge to separate accurate information from misinformation and use your personalized health data correctly. Healthcare professional candidates undergo rigorous coursework, and it’s vital they have talented teachers who are passionate about facilitating their learning. Because of this, healthcare educators are more important than ever.
These dedicated professionals support communities by teaching healthy behaviors, connect individuals to the appropriate resources, and train the next generation of healthcare providers. Ultimately, healthcare educators empower people to become health and wellness advocates.
Healthcare educators mostly work in academic settings, training other healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, veterinarians, and dentists. Healthcare educators are responsible for organizing content, developing courses, teaching in classroom or non classroom settings either on-campus or off-campus, and designing assessments. They may teach topics as varied as surgical techniques, anatomy, medical technology, and pharmacology. They also help healthcare professionals understand the programs and resources that can benefit their patients. Their working environments include colleges and universities, hospitals, and research facilities.
Other healthcare educators work in the community to research the demographics, healthcare habits, and general health needs of the communities they work in. They study the factors that contribute to the health and wellness of these populations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For instance, some may collect data on high cancer mortality rates, while others may track obesity rates that exceed the national average. Healthcare educators develop programs and resource materials to reach communities with high cancer mortality rates or high obesity rates and empower them through education to improve their health. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) notes that the ability to create programs is a key distinction between healthcare educators and community health workers, who help operate those programs. For the community suffering with cancer mortality rates for example, a healthcare educator may form an early screening program, and for the community struggling with obesity, they may create a 5K run event with an educational health fair component.
Healthcare educators also supervise teams, evaluate new and existing health programs for their efficiency, help point community members towards health resources, and speak at city council meetings as advocates of policies or funding that could have a positive health impact.
These community-based healthcare educators are also teachers. They may work with community members directly, showing them methods for improving their habits and managing their wellness.
Healthcare educators work in various community settings, according to the BLS, and their setting may play a role in their job duties.
A healthcare educator must have a deep sense of compassion for the community and a drive to make a positive change in the health and well-being of others. For those with strong listening, analytical, and problem-solving skills, this can be an excellent career choice. There are steps for a healthcare educator to take to secure a rewarding position.
Prospective healthcare educators must earn a bachelor’s degree. It’s preferable that they study a related field, such as health education, health science, veterinary science, nursing, or education. During their undergraduate education, they’ll build the foundations of their careers, including teaching skills, health behavior theories, program creation, and data analysis.
Some undergraduate degrees in health education require an internship as part of the program requirements. It’s important for prospective healthcare educators to gain professional experience working in the field, so they learn how to apply their classroom learning in real-world environments.
Many healthcare educators choose to take an additional step and become certified by an accredited organization, a credential that’s popular among employers. NCHEC, for example, offers a certified health education specialist program. There are also online certificate programs in teaching in the healthcare professions that can impart invaluable skills and expertise in instruction, decision-making, analysis, and program development. By earning their certification, professionals can improve their likelihood of landing a job with competitive pay in an environment they enjoy.
It can also benefit healthcare educators who wish to specialize to consider earning their master’s or doctoral degree in public health education, community health education, or other areas—especially if they want to become a healthcare educator at the university level.
Health educators earned a median annual wage of $54,220 in 2018, according to the BLS. Health educators at the lowest earning level received less than $32,030, and those at the top earning level received more than $98,530. While education, experience, and geographic location play into salary figures, so does workplace environment. Health educators in hospitals of all types earned a median annual wage of $64,830.
Due to a growing emphasis on preventive care and outcome-based medicine—that is, treatment plans that base medical cost on patient outcomes—healthcare educators will continue to be in demand. The employment outlook for health educators and community health workers is strong; the BLS projects 16% growth in opportunities from 2016 to 2026, far outpacing the average for all jobs across the nation.
If you enjoy teaching; are working in the healthcare sector; and are passionate about improving health and wellness for individuals, communities and even animals, the next step in your career could be as a healthcare educator. LSU Online’s Certificate in Teaching in the Healthcare Professions is aimed at professionals who want to teach in academic healthcare and who have a background as a doctor, a veterinarian, a pharmacist, a physical therapist, a dentist, an occupational therapist, a nurse, or a physician assistant. Find out more about the professional opportunities you can capture by earning an LSU Online certification.