For nurses looking for a career change within the healthcare industry, you might consider becoming a patient educator. This in-demand field can be a great fit for those currently working as a registered nurse. Patient educators use their clinical experience and education to work with patients and physicians, to create wellness through education and effective treatment strategies.
In general, patient educators help people make healthier lifestyle choices. They are responsible for developing educational programs for groups or individuals, often in a hospital or community health setting. Their duties may range from teaching children about good health habits to helping newly diagnosed diabetics learn how to manage their disease.
Many patient educators work in hospitals, where they explain medical procedures, surgical treatments and at-home care to patients. They are often responsible for developing strategies for individuals or communities to improve health or prevent disease.
Some patient educators specialize in certain areas, such as diabetes care, prenatal care or heart health. Others generalize, helping a variety of patients.
Additional patient educator job duties include:
Because patient educators must be knowledgeable about a variety of medical issues and procedures, as well as terminology, many employers prefer to hire applicants with nursing experience. Most employers require at least a four-year degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree and experience, some employers require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential, offered by the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing. The certification is awarded upon passing an examination. High-level government or state public health agency positions may require advanced education, such as a master’s degree.
Characteristics of Patient Educators
Important qualities and characteristics for success as a patient educator include:
Patient educator salaries are comparable with other healthcare specialties. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average salary of $43,840 for health educators. Salaries ranged from a low of $30,250 to more than $92,950 annually.
The BLS projects health educator jobs to grow 13% through 2024, a rate which is faster than the national average for all other occupations. Demand for these professionals is expected to be driven by efforts to increase healthcare education to improve the quality of care and health outcomes while reducing costs.
Because nursing salary potential and job opportunities may vary according to location, education, experience and other factors, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research to determine actual salary and employment potential.
If you have a desire to teach and to expand your healthcare career opportunities, you could find success as a patient educator. The first step is enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program, to gain the skills and knowledge that will qualify you to compete for jobs in this rewarding and growing field.