Health

Alternative careers in the healthcare sector

Mention the idea of ‘jobs in healthcare,’, and most people will likely immediately think of the traditional front-end roles like doctors and nurses. However, many other non-physician careers in the healthcare sector play an equally meaningful and important part in the overall patient care service.

A truly diverse industry

From specialist elderly patient carers to administrators, therapists and counselors, there is a huge range of jobs available in the health sector – and many of the roles command impressively high salaries.

If you’re attracted by the idea of working in a care-related job that improves the lives of others but lacks the in-depth qualifications required to take on the more hands-on role of a doctor or nurse, read on for some alternative career ideas that might be of interest.

Respiratory care

As populations worldwide are living longer, there has been a significant increase in the demand for respiratory therapists. The job involves helping and treating patients suffering from breathing difficulties and, while these problems are most common in the elderly, respiratory therapists treat all ages, e.g., babies with undeveloped lungs right up to older patients with asthma or emphysema.

To get started in this role, you’ll need an associate’s degree plus gain a license to operate in your particular state. As mentioned earlier, with the length of expected life continuing to increase, it’s expected respiratory care professionals will remain in high demand.

RCFE administrator

This administration role can be hugely rewarding and involves looking after older people in a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE). Typical duties include general supervision of clients, help with personal care (e.g., eating, washing, walking, dressing, etc.), overseeing food prep, planning menus, training staff, and arranging work rotas.

By studying a short course to get an assisted living administrator license, you could join an existing facility in an administrator role or even set up and establish your own care home service.

Radiographer/MRI technician

Any time you’ve had a broken bone, you’ll have no doubt been given an x-ray to see the exact nature of the problem – and that x-ray will have been performed by a skilled radiographer. Radiographers and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technicians provide an invaluable service allowing doctors and nurses to precisely diagnose issues and offer treatment to patients.

To work in this field, you’ll need an associate’s degree plus gain an additional license or certification in your state. Job opportunities in radiography are on the increase, with an expected 30,000 new roles to be created in the US by 2026.

Jobs related to diet and nutrition

One of the areas in healthcare that has seen significant growth in recent years has been in the diet and nutrition sector. As our understanding of the link between what we eat and how it affects our general overall health increases, so these roles will continue to be in demand.

Dieticians and nutritionists use their considerable knowledge and experience to devise tailored, bespoke diets for patients – often to manage the disease. This role is particularly important for those patients suffering from obesity or diabetes, although the skills can be applied equally well for those just looking to improve their general health and well-being. Indeed, rather than specializing just in healthcare, diet/nutrition experience could see you branching into gym work or a role as a personal health adviser/trainer.

To take on a role in this field, you will need a Bachelor’s degree, ideally in nutritional science, plus other qualifications in a similar discipline that will prove useful.

Working with prosthetics and orthotics

The design and sophistication of prosthetics and orthotics have improved considerably in recent years, making a job in this sector one of the highest-paid non-physician roles. Providing splints, braces, artificial limbs, etc., can completely transform a patient’s life, removing pain or even giving them back mobility.

There are many different aspects to the preparation and administration of prosthetics and orthotics that could see you working in a range of different positions ranging from manufacturing and sales to the hands-on duties of fitting devices in a hospital.

Limb loss caused by diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is on the rise (particularly in the elderly), so demand for individuals with skills in prosthetics and orthotics is forecast to remain high.

For a career in this sector, you’ll need a master’s degree – again, preferably in a related subject, although employers often provide cross-training.

Take a job as a dental hygienist

Dental hygienists are commonly seen as the first line of defense in the battle against tooth decay and oral diseases. Working as a dental hygienist, you’ll be expected to clean patients’ teeth, check for signs of developing the disease, e.g., gingivitis, and educate patients on the importance of good dental care and hygiene. You may also be required to administer associated preventative care like fluoride treatments as well as doing X-rays.

The dental hygienist’s role requires specific qualifications in the form of an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. You will also need a license to operate in your particular state.

Work as a speech therapist

Problems with speech can affect all ages through they are particularly predominant in younger children and the elderly. Treating speech disorders requires accurate assessment, diagnosis, and treatment to alleviate problems. With elderly patients, speech disorders are most commonly the result of strokes or brain injury, while children are often caused by developmental problems or autism. You may also have to treat patients suffering difficulties with swallowing.

The majority of speech therapy work is done in hospitals – although you will likely also have to attend schools and health centers from time to time.

To work as a speech therapist, you’ll need a Speech-Language Pathology degree, plus additional training will also prove useful. There are now several online courses that you could complete in your free time and to a schedule that suits you to gain the entry requirements.

Jobs as a pharmacist

Pharmacists work in conjunction with other front-end healthcare professionals to promote good health, wellness and provide treatments to patients to help them recover. This invaluable role commands a high salary and will require you to prescribe, prepare and dispense medications – either as dictated by another doctor or based upon your own diagnosis.

To work as a pharmacist, you’ll need to complete a 4-year degree – a PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) – and will also need to gain a license that involves passing a further two exams. Most pharmacists work either in hospitals or in high street pharmacy stores – although the PharmD degree also offers a good range of lateral movement into roles such as sales, pharmacology, or medical science.

Train to be an Occupational Therapist

The occupational therapist’s role is vital for the recuperation and recovery of sick patients and the disabled to improve their quality of life. An Occupational Therapist will typically help patients regain life skills that have often been lost due to an accident, disease, or disability.

This challenging but rewarding job could see you working with people of all ages, mostly in hospitals and specialist clinics, although the job often requires working in the home of patients or at schools or in nursing homes.

To qualify to become an occupational therapist, you’ll need to complete a specialist 4-year master’s degree. However, with the continued growth in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and autism, this role is in high demand – and is forecast to remain so – giving real career stability to those with the relevant skills.

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