Health NW: Health care careers in the community

<center>Kathryn B. Brown, FNP</center>

Last week's column covered some health care careers based in hospitals. There are many other health care jobs based in clinics, out in the community and in people's homes, for those who would rather not work in a hospital.

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts there will be plenty of job opportunities for most health care professionals in the years ahead. Here are a few options to think about if you're looking for a new career.

• Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics: For those who thrive on excitement, want challenging work, make decisions quickly and don't mind the sight of blood, this is a great career. EMTs are dispatched to provide care to sick or injured people on the scene and often transport them to the hospital.

• Nurses don't always wear white and work in hospitals. A significant number of nurses work in community health clinics, doctor's offices, home health agencies and schools. There are many levels of nurses, including certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs).

• Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) function much like family practice physicians, but they usually don't take care of patients who need to be hospitalized. Most work in settings like private practice clinics, county health clinics, high school and university health clinics and urgent care centers.

• Dietitians and nutritionists can work in many settings. They plan nutrition programs for schools, nursing homes, prisons and large companies. Some work independently as consultants in private practice.

• Massage therapists often work in a private practice, but some are employed by hotels, cruise ships, health clubs and spas. Some go to clients' homes to give massages.

• Audiologists work with people who have hearing or balance problems. They can be employed by physicians who specialize in otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat doctors, also called ENTs), hearing and speech centers, schools and universities. Some have private practices and may work as consultants.

• Speech-language pathologists help people who have difficulty speaking or with language. Like audiologists, they can work in physician's offices and speech and hearing centers, but are most likely to work in schools and universities.

• Counselors specialize in areas such as rehabilitation (helping people with disabilities), marriage and family therapy, mental health and substance abuse. They can work in a wide variety of settings, including health care facilities and health maintenance organizations, public health clinics, schools and universities, social service agencies, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and in private practice.

• Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants can work in private practice, outpatient rehabilitation centers and for home health agencies.

• Occupational therapists and occupational therapist assistants help people with disabilities improve the ability to function in their environment. Some occupational therapists work in hospitals, but many work in rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, residential care facilities and home health agencies.

• Medical transcriptionists may be able to work at home, though most work in a clinic or hospital setting at first. The job entails listening to recordings of health care providers' dictation and then typing the words into the patient's medical record.

• Home health aides help disabled and frail elderly people who wish to continue living at home. They usually work under the supervision of a registered nurse, and take care of many of the medical and personal needs of their clients.

If you are looking for a first career or a career change, health care offers excellent opportunities. If you don't relish the idea of working with sick people, consider the professions that focus on health education and enhancement.

Kathryn B. Brown is a family nurse practitioner with a master's degree in nursing from OHSU. Is there a health topic you would like to read about? Send ideas to kbbrown@eastoregonian.com.

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