Question of the Week

February 24, 2004


There is a need for nurses in the United States.

"The United States is in the midst of a nursing shortage that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing colleges and universities across the country are struggling to maintain enrollment levels which remain insufficient to meet the projected demand for nursing care."

You may have heard mention--on the news, from teachers, or elsewhere--that there is a shortage of nurses. Have you heard that there is a shortage of health care workers? When you think of health care workers, what comes to mind?

"Is there a shortage of health care workers today? Yes.  Recent surveys conducted by the American Hospital Association and OHA [Ohio Hospital Association] showed a number of unfilled positions. The AHA documented over 168,000 unfilled positions including nurses, pharmacists, technologists, aides, and other health care related positions (AHA Workforce Shortage Survey, 2001)."

Health care workers are more than doctors and nurses. What else is there? How can you find out about other job or career opportunities? How can you know if there is a health care profession that might fit your interests? One thing you can do is "Browse health and medical science careers by the six categories below that relate personal interests to favored work environments." (The number indicates how many possible career paths the site describes in each category.) There could be something for you if you consider yourself:

"Artistic (4) I like jobs that involve a degree of self-expression and working with forms, designs, and patterns and without a clear set of rules."Conventional (7) I like jobs that involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. There's usually a clear line of authority to follow.
"Enterprising (6) I like jobs that involve starting up and carrying out projects, leading people, making many decisions, and dealing with businesses, and it sometimes requires risk taking.
"Investigative (41) I like jobs that involve working with ideas and requires an extensive amount of thinking.
"Realistic (13) I like jobs that involve working on practical, hands-on problems and solutions, often with real-world materials, tools, and machinery.
"Social (36) I like jobs that involve working and communicating with, helping, and teaching people."

With all the possibilities, you may find one--or more--that sound interesting; but maybe you're still not sure what you want to do. As you travel through high school and college, how can you decide if a health care profession is right for you? Many hospitals offer volunteer programs similar to this one:

"If you are 14 years old or older and in high school, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania offers many opportunities for career exposure in a healthcare profession. Many high schools require students to commit to community service, or provide students with career enhancement opportunities in service learning programs. Teenagers who wish to complete volunteer service or would like to spend time learning more about health care are welcome to join the HUP Volunteer Team."

If a health care career is one that you are considering (or if you are still not sure what you are considering), then there are many benefits to you as a volunteer.

A few include:
"* Exposure to medicine or healthcare field of choice
* After completing the minimum service requirements, a letter of recommendation to a college program of your choice or a letter confirming service/learning, or required community service will be written by Manager, Volunteer Services
* While becoming a volunteer at HUP does not lead directly to employment at HUP or admission to a college program, it does provide volunteers with experience and valuable skills for future education and employment..."

While helping others as a volunteer, you receive benefits that can help you make decisions. Whether or not you decide the aspect of health care in which you volunteered is a path on which you want to continue, your new skills and experiences can make you more appealing when you are applying to college or trying to get a paid position at a later date. If you decide that health care is for you, then what do you do? Have you decided to work with those in your community? Maybe you want to work somewhere else.

"The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) is committed to improving the health of the Nation's underserved....Approximately 50 million people live in communities without access to primary health care. At NHSC, we are working to change this by helping medically underserved communities recruit and retain primary care clinicians, including dental and mental and behavioral health professionals, to serve in their community."

If you do decide that you are willing to be flexible about where you eventually look for work, then there are programs like the NHSC available to help you help those areas with the most need.

"We provide students and clinicians with the support and assistance they need to fulfill their career goal of helping communities in need. NHSC offers:
·Meaningful student and resident opportunities to work on interdisciplinary health care teams, or community projects, in underserved areas;
·Competitive scholarship and loan repayment programs for students and clinicians committed to serving the neediest communities;
·Job placement assistance in underserved communities
·Support for students and clinicians who commit to improving the health of the Nation's underserved..."

Questions of the Week:
How could you use your unique skills to help the community as a health care professional? What tools and resources are available--in your area or online--to help you figure out if there is a health care profession that might be right for you? What volunteer opportunities are available in your area that might help you confirm or refine your career path?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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