Because healthcare systems and patient needs are extremely diverse and constantly expanding, the roles and specialties of healthcare providers are also growing and evolving. This can be confusing for professionals who are considering entering a healthcare career and for those already employed in the field who want to advance their careers.
In hopes of providing assistance to nurses and healthcare practitioners, I will be publishing a series of objective articles called “Careers in Healthcare,” which will address a range of healthcare and patient care issues and how they relate to career options.
Let me start by introducing myself: my name is Betty Nelson and I am an adjunct professor in Health Sciences and Nursing at American Sentinel University. As a registered nurse with more than 30 years of experience as a clinician, administrator and educator, I am passionate about patient care and supporting those who provide it.
Covering healthcare career issues that are relevant now
This series will feature two new articles published per month. Articles will address real-world healthcare career issues, such as:
- Is a healthcare career right for you?
- How do you keep up with the changing landscape of healthcare?
- The rising need for expert infection prevention and control practitioners.
- Patient safety and quality take center stage: directors needed.
- Case management vs. care management
- The case for courageous managers
- Healthcare and the digital world: electronic health records
- Why advanced and specialized education will become the norm
Never has there been a more challenging time for those in the healthcare industry. Continuous medical discoveries and technological advances, shifting organizational infrastructures, and lengthening life spans are requiring us to steadfastly check our knowledge and skills against current best evidence.
New specialties and roles are continually emerging. Our patients deserve the most effective care, and continuing education is the pathway to provide it.
Building a dynamic career in healthcare
Interestingly, a healthcare career can be very versatile and dynamic. You can shape it as you move through your life, building on your interests and skills as the opportunities that present themselves. You can build it in one place or travel the country. You can focus on clinical practice, management, education, policy, technology or research. You can even be an entrepreneur.
My own career trajectory is a good example.
I began as a newly minted RN with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, intent on being a labor and delivery nurse. Unfortunately (or so I thought at the time), there were no positions in this field within a reasonable distance from my home. Unable to relocate, I shifted my vision and sought a position in pediatrics.
Thus I began my career as the founding nurse coordinator for a new pediatric in-patient unit within an academic rehabilitation hospital. Little did I know at the time that this position would provide me with clinical, managerial, research and academic experience – and unending curiosity.
Education paved the way for knowledge and empowerment
As I moved forward in my career, I recognized the need for a Masters degree in Nursing and then a doctoral degree, each for the purpose of attaining the necessary knowledge and skills to allow me to advance and do what I chose to do. At various times those things were to:
- Provide patient care as a clinical nurse specialist
- Strengthen healthcare organizations as a nurse manager
- Work as a quality and performance improvement director
- Serve as chief nurse and hospital administrator
- Direct health services and policy research as a research director
- Support healthcare students as a hospital education director
- Teach as a university faculty member and associate dean
I hope you can see that I am passionate about supporting healthcare students. This article series aims to do just that – by providing pertinent information to those of you interested in pursuing a career in healthcare and allow those of you who are in healthcare careers to consider all options for building your career.