Passionate About Healthcare? Explore These Careers, As Explained By Someone In The Field
Healthcare is now the largest employer in the US.
These days, healthcare is a team sport, and as our population ages, we will need more and more individuals who are passionate about caring for others to enter the workforce.
Whether you are interested in studying medicine, considering a career switch, or want to learn more about the wide variety of professions in this interdisciplinary industry, read on to discover more.
Training required: Bachelor’s + Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) + residency (specialty) ± fellowship (subspecialty). Residencies vary in length from 3 years for Pediatrics and Family Medicine to 6+ for surgical subspecialties.
Physicians are the leaders of the healthcare team, and their primary role is to diagnosis and treat disease. Picture your primary care doctor, your OB-GYN, your surgeon. All of these hard-working individuals graduated from medical school and completed a residency in the field of their choice. Physicians work in clinics and hospitals, in rural practices, and large academic centers. And for the third year in a row, the American Academy of Medical Colleges (AAMC) has projected that physician demand will continue to grow faster than the supply, with an estimated shortage of doctors between 41,000 and 105,000 doctors by 2030. One way to address this projected shortage, especially in primary care, has been to increase the number of Physician’s Assistants (PAs) in the workforce. PAs complete undergraduate training, followed by a 3-year PA program. PAs may see patients as part of a primary care office, assist in surgery, or care for hospitalized patients.
Training required: Bachelor’s (BSN) for Registered Nurse (RN) + Master’s or Doctorate for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)
Nurses are the workhorse behind our healthcare system. In the hospital, RNs work on every unit from Labor and Delivery to the Intensive Care Unit, providing specialized care to patients of all ages, from birth to the end of life. APRNs practice specialist roles: Nurse Practitioners diagnose minor illness and prescribe medicine; certified Nurse Midwives provide prenatal and obstetric care; and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists provide anesthesia care.
Training required: Bachelor’s + Doctor of Physical Therapy
Physical therapists work with patients of all ages to help them recover from injuries, long hospital stays, and chronic conditions. Using hands-on techniques and physical exercises, PTs play an essential role in the path to recovery for many patients.
Training required: Bachelor’s + Master or Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapists help patients regain function in the everyday tasks of living. For a stroke patient, this may mean re-learning daily self-care tasks such as bathing or dressing; for a disabled patient, this may mean using adaptive strategies such as leg bracing or wheelchairs to increase their independence and functional mobility. Occupational therapists tailor their work to each patient’s individual needs, empowering patients to lead independent lives and reach their full potential.
Training required: Associate’s in Respiratory Therapy
Respiratory therapists provide specialized care for patients with respiratory disease. From premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to hospitalized patients requiring ventilator support, RTs aid in the testing, monitoring, and treatment of these patients.
Training required: Bachelor’s + Master of Speech-Language Pathology
Speech-language pathologists (SLP) diagnose and manage patients with language, communication and swallowing disorders. They are experts in communication, and they work with people of all ages, from children with Autism to elderly stroke patients. In the hospital, SLPs may be asked to determine if a patient can swallow food safely or help figure out why a patient is having trouble eating.
Training required: Bachelor’s + Master of Social Work
Social determinants of health, such as financial stability, education, access to food, and social support, are increasingly recognized as major drivers of health outcomes. Social workers address these issues by working with patients and their families to identify unmet needs and find resources to overcome them. For example, hospital case managers may help patients find home nursing care or arrange transportation to follow-up appointments.
As a fourth-year medical student, it has been an honor to work side-by-side with my team members in promoting wellness for our individual patients, families, and communities. While doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers have different roles on the healthcare team, we all have one common goal: to care for the mind, body and spirit.