Anna Vannelli, a dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Park Nicollet International Diabetes Center and at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, talks about her work.
Tailor your resume to the job you want, experts advise. Being clear, concise, error-free and specific about your healthcare experience may move your resume to the top of the heap.
Healthcare workers are in great demand, and many healthcare fields do not require a college degree at the entry level. Within a general category — such as nursing — there usually is a vertical advancement ladder that entry-level workers can climb to attain higher pay, authority and responsibility. Each rung on the vertical ladder typically requires additional education in certified programs and licensing exams. Most healthcare professionals are licensed, often at both the national and state levels.
Vertical job ladders are not the only way to advance in health care. The skills and knowledge from one job category may be transferable, enabling an employee to bridge to a new job category without starting at the entry level. For example, a respiratory therapist may move into nursing, or a physical therapy assistant may decide to become an occupational therapist or speech pathologist rather than a physical therapist. Because health professionals are in great demand, many employers have career ladder programs that help employees pursue the additional education and training that they need to advance quickly, moving up vertically or bridging to a different job category while continuing to work.
Title: Registered nurse (RN)
What you do: Treat, educate and support patients. Record medical histories and test and operate medical equipment. At this level, nurses can specialize based on clinical setting or medical/disease specialty. This is the largest health care occupation, and a majority of the jobs for RNs are in hospitals.
Education/training: An associate degree or bachelor's degree from a state-approved school of nursing is required, and you must pass a national licensing exam. Nurses who have earned a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree – considered an advanced nursing degree – generally have more job opportunities and higher salaries.
*Pay: $68,000. Wages are highest through staffing services and lowest in nursing homes.
Advancement: Registered nurses can specialize in many different areas: critical care, emergency medicine, hospice/palliative care, labor and delivery, neonatal care, nephrology, oncology, orthopedics, perioperative care, mental health, women's health and more. They also can move up to become advanced practice registered nursing specialists. Master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees and additional certifications are required for these advanced specialties:
· Certified registered nurse anesthetists administer two-thirds of anesthetics given to patients.
· Nurse practitioners can prescribe medication and provide a wide range of diagnostic, preventive and primary health care services.
· Clinical nurse specialists work in a variety of physical and mental health care specialties and also as consultants, researchers, educators and administrators.
· Certified nurse-midwives provide well-women gynecological and low-risk obstetrical care and handle low-risk births.
Title: Licensed practical nurse (LPN)
What you do: Provide basic bedside care, such as monitoring vital signs, giving injections, dressing wounds, collecting samples for testing, and moving, bathing, feeding and helping patients walk. Monitor and clean medical equipment.
Education/training: One year of training in basic nursing care at a vocational or technical school or community or junior college is required, and you must pass a national licensing exam.
*Pay: $38,000. Wages are highest through staffing services and lowest in physicians' offices.
Advancement: Licensed practical nurses often complete additional education and training to become registered nurses.
Title: Nurse aide/certified nurse assistant (CNA)
What you do: Provide hands-on personal care for patients, including eating, dressing, bathing, toilet/catheter assistance, walking, lifting and turning, etc. You will work under the supervision of a nurse. Also at this entry level for the nursing profession are home health aides, orderlies and attendants.
Education/training: A high school diploma is required for entry. Nurse aides receive on-the-job training or can complete short Red Cross or community college training programs. Nurse aides who work in nursing homes are required to complete 75 hours of state-approved training to become a CNA.
*Pay: $27,000. Wages are highest in local government jobs and lowest in assisted living facilities.
Advancement: Nurse aides and assistants often complete additional education and training to become licensed practical nurses or registered nurses.
Title: Physical therapist (PT)
What you do: Rehabilitate patients using heat, cold, ultrasound, traction, electrical stimulation and other therapies. The goal is to restore function, improve mobility and relieve pain. Test patients' strength, range of motion, balance, respiration, motor function and muscle performance. Work with patients who have been in accidents or who have back pain, arthritis or heart disease. Motivating and coaching patients is a key part of the job.
Education/training: A master's degree in physical therapy is required, and three years of undergraduate work usually is required for entry into these programs.
*Pay: $65,000. Wages are highest in nursing homes and lowest for independent PT practices.
Advancement: Physical therapists can move into areas of specialization, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine or neurology. They also can pursue a doctor of physical therapy degree.
Title: Physical therapy assistant
What you do: Provide rehabilitation treatment to patients under the direction of a physical therapist.
Education/training: An associate degree is required in many states.
*Pay: $39,000. Wages are highest in home health care and lowest in physicians' offices.
Advancement: Physical therapy assistants often complete additional education and training to become PTs, or move into occupational therapy, speech therapy or recreation therapy.
Title: Physical therapy aide
What you do: Work under supervision of a physical therapy assistant or physical therapist, taking care of clerical work and transporting patients.
Education/training: A high school diploma is required for entry.
*Pay: $27,000. Wages are highest in nursing homes and lowest in PT practices.
Advancement: Physical therapy aides often complete additional education and training to become physical therapy or occupational therapy assistants, emergency medical technicians or paramedics.
Title: Occupational therapist (OT)
What you do: Develop treatment plans and provide rehabilitation for people with mental, physical, emotional and developmental impairment. Patients range from children with autism to people with injuries to elderly adults who are prone to falls. The goal is to help patients remain independent and participate in normal daily activities.
Education/training: A master of occupational therapy degree is required, and you must pass a national exam and complete supervised clinical internships in a variety of health care settings. States also license occupational therapists.
*Pay: $58,000. Wages are highest in home health care and lowest in primary and secondary schools.
Advancement: Occupational therapists can pursue doctoral degrees.
Title: Occupational therapy assistant
What you do: Assist with rehabilitation activities and exercises. Do hands-on work with patients under the supervision of an occupational therapist.
Education/training: An associate degree or completion of a certification program is required.
*Pay: $38,000. Wages are highest in therapists' offices and lowest in hospitals.
Advancement: Occupational therapy assistants often complete additional education and training to become occupational therapists, or move into physical therapy, recreational therapy or speech therapy.
Title: Occupational therapy aide
What you do: Prepare materials, assemble equipment and do clerical work.
Education/training: A high school diploma is required, and most of the training is provided on the job.
*Pay: $31,000. Wages are highest in therapists' offices and lowest in nursing homes.
Advancement: Occupational therapy aides often complete additional education and training to become occupational therapy assistants or OTs, or move into the physical therapy, emergency medical technician or paramedic fields.
Title: Physician assistant (PA)
What you do: Record medical histories, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, treat minor injuries and prescribe some medications. Provide diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive healthcare under a physician's supervision. A majority of PAs work in physicians' offices.
Education/training: A degree from an accredited physician assistant program is required, and at least two years of undergraduate work typically is required to enter these programs. Physician assistants are nearly equally split between those who have a bachelor-level PA degree and those who have a master-level PA degree. Most PA program applicants already have a bachelor's degree. You must also pass a national certification exam and meet state licensing requirements.
*Pay: $83,000. Wages are highest in outpatient care centers and lowest in physicians' offices.
Advancement: Physician assistants can move into nursing, decide to become a physician or they can pursue postgraduate education and specialize in surgery, neonatology, emergency medicine, internal medicine, rural primary care, pediatrics and other areas.
Title: Respiratory therapist
What you do: Evaluate, treat and care for patients with breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders. Conduct diagnostic tests that measure lung capacity and blood gas levels and examine tissue. Oversee pulmonary rehabilitation and smoking cessation programs and perform chest physiotherapy. Select, assemble, check and operate equipment, including ventilators. You may visit patients in their homes and train them to use home equipment. You will work under the supervision of a physician.
Education/training: An associate degree is required, and respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska and Hawaii.
*Pay: $56,500. Wages are highest at junior colleges and staffing services and lowest at outpatient care centers.
Advancement: Respiratory therapists can complete bachelor's or master's degrees in order to advance. They can also move into related fields that deal with treating and training people to improve their physical condition. These include occupational therapy, physical therapy and nursing.
Title: Respiratory therapy technician
What you do: Assist with or perform diagnostic and treatment work with patients who have lung, breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders. You may work under the supervision of a physician or a respiratory therapist. Select, assemble, check and operate equipment, including ventilators. Work is similar to but sometimes less advanced than that of a respiratory therapist.
Education/training: Associate degree.
Advancement: Respiratory therapy technicians can become respiratory therapists or move laterally to positions in related healthcare fields, such as physical therapy assistant, occupational therapy assistant, nurse aide or licensed practical nurse (LPN). A pay cut may be necessary to switch to those other fields without obtaining additional education.
Title: Clinical laboratory scientist/Medical technologist
What you do: Focus more exclusively on complex laboratory work. At this level, you are a true healthcare detective with more theoretical knowledge than lab technologists and technicians. You are involved in advanced testing, such as molecular diagnostics.
Education/training: A bachelor's degree is required; some states have licensing requirements and several professional organizations offer certification exams.
*Pay: $60,000 (national median).
Advancement: Clinical laboratory scientists and medical technologists can pursue additional education at the master's and doctoral levels, and can become laboratory directors.
Title: Medical laboratory technologist/Clinical laboratory technologist
What you do: Generate vital data to identify and treat serious conditions including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. This work does not involve direct patient care but utilizes sophisticated instruments and manual techniques to collect, culture, examine and analyze body fluids, tissues and cells for microorganisms. You may check the accuracy of test results and review them with physicians, do drug testing, maintain instruments, or type and cross-match blood samples for transfusions.
Education/training: An associate degree or bachelor's degree is required, and you should have a solid foundation in high school biology, chemistry and math to enter the field. Some states have licensing requirements and several professional organizations offer certification exams.
*Pay: $54,000. Wages are highest with the federal government and lowest at colleges and universities.
Advancement: Medical laboratory technologists can earn a bachelor's degree and move up to the clinical laboratory scientist level. They can also specialize in cytotechnology (cells), histotechnology ( tissues) or phlebotomy (blood). Related occupations include crime scene investigator, dental lab technician, forensic biologist, nuclear medicine technologist and ophthalmic laboratory technician.
Title: Medical laboratory technician
What you do: Work under the supervision of a medical laboratory technologist or clinical laboratory scientist, assisting with collecting, processing and analyzing specimens, performing lab procedures, equipment maintenance and relating findings to common diseases or conditions. Good motor skills, hand-eye coordination and the ability to work independently, analytically and under pressure are important in this field.
Education/training: A certificate program or associate degree is required; some states have licensing requirements and several professional organizations offer certification exams.
*Pay: $40,000. Wages are highest in hospitals and lowest with ambulatory healthcare services.
Advancement: Medical laboratory technicians can climb the vertical ladder to become medical/clinical laboratory technologists or clinical laboratory scientists, or they can move into forensics, chemistry, materials science, or dental or veterinary technician jobs.
Title: Radiation therapist
What you do: Administer targeted doses of radiation to treat cancer or other diseases. You will work closely with radiation oncologists and with medical dosimetrists to determine how much radiation should be delivered to each tumor site. You will use linear accelerator machines in a procedure called external beam therapy. Keep detailed records and provide emotional support to patients.
Education/training: A bachelor's degree, associate degree or certificate from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) may be required. Many states (32 of them in 2007) license radiation therapists.
*Pay: $68,300. Wages are highest in outpatient care center and lowest in hospitals.
Advancement: Radiation therapists can advance to management positions with experience or go into teaching, technical sales or research. With additional training and certification, they can become dosimetrists.
Title: Radiologic technologist
What you do: Perform diagnostic imaging examinations of bones, blood vessels, tissues and organs. Images are captured on film or videotape, or as digital files. You may administer materials into the bloodstream for diagnostic purposes, or you may administer radiation therapy treatments. You will work with and position patients to ensure that an accurate image is produced and work closely with radiologists, who interpret the images. You will also keep records, and adjust and maintain medical equipment.
Education/training: One- to four-year certificate programs are available through colleges and universities, hospitals, community and vocational/technical schools. Areas of focus include anatomy, patient care and positioning, examination techniques, equipment protocols and radiation safety.
*Pay: $53,400. Wages are highest in medical and diagnostic laboratories and lowest in physicians' offices.
Advancement: Radiologic technologists can sometimes earn more by specializing in a particular type of diagnostic imaging. Specialties include bone densitometry, interventional cardiology, CT scanning, MRIs, mammography, nuclear medicine, radiography (x-rays) and sonography. Radiologic technologists can also move into radiation therapy or related healthcare positions such as cardiovascular technologist, clinical laboratory technologist, pharmacy technician or surgical technologist.
Title: Speech-language pathologist (also called "speech therapist")
What you do: Assess, diagnose and treat disorders related to speech, language, voice, swallowing and fluency, including the inability to make sounds or speak clearly, stuttering, inappropriate pitch, harsh voice and swallowing disorders. Causes for these problems include developmental delays, learning disabilities, strokes and brain injuries. You will use instruments and assessment tests and develop individualized care plans. Half of speech-language pathologists work in education, and most of the rest work in healthcare and social services. While the work is not physically demanding, it requires intense concentration, attention to detail, patience, compassion and good listening skills.
Education/training: A master's degree is required for most jobs in this field, and most states license speech therapists. Some states grant provisional licenses to work in schools to applicants with a bachelor's degree, with the requirement that a master's degree be earned in 3 to 5 years.
*Pay: $55,400. Wages are highest in nursing homes and lowest in elementary and secondary schools.
Advancement: Speech-language pathologists can pursue doctorate degrees and develop expertise with certain age groups or disorders. They also can specialize in areas such as child language, fluency, or feeding and swallowing, or be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions.
* Pay information is from the U. S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics and its Occupational Outlook Handbook, and reflects annual mean wage levels in Minnesota as of May 2007. These have been rounded to the nearest $1,000.
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