There’s more to healthcare careers than you think

Everyone knows that job opportunities in healthcare are booming. From technicians to those on the front line of patient care, healthcare careers abound.

Beyond doctors and nurses, hospitals and health centers are staffed with technicians, researchers, therapists, and assistants.

Many of these in-demand, good-paying healthcare careers require just two years of college to get started. That’s two good reasons to consider these professions. But a commitment to good healthcare, strong people skills, and a desire to help others are still important for success in most of these jobs.

The first step for most healthcare careers is taking foundation classes in math and science. Many healthcare programs, such as physical therapist assistant and dental assisting, are selective, admitting only a certain number of qualified students each year who have mastered the prerequisites.

Science and care

In medical settings, attention to detail and knowledge of math and science are critical for good patient care. Respiratory therapists diagnose and treat lung problems on patients that range from newborn babies to the elderly. These procedures require sophisticated lab equipment and medical instruments, and expertise in human anatomy.

“You’re dealing with medicine,” says Dr. Candace Croft, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Hawkeye Community College. “You have to make sure you administer the right dose. Our bodies are made of chemicals and you have to understand how medicines interact.”

Professionalism and people skills

Other healthcare professionals are on the front lines of preventive care. Dental hygienists, for example, not only clean and polish teeth, they educate their clients about nutrition and care that’s essential for healthy teeth.

Dr. David Reff, dental administrative chair at Hawkeye Community College, explains that dental hygiene careers require broad skills. “The public’s perception is the dental hygienist student learns how to ‘clean teeth.’ That’s a misconception.” Dental hygiene students study behavioral sciences, sociology, communication, professionalism, and ethics, in addition to biomedical, dental, and dental hygiene sciences.

“When they graduate, they’re trained to assess head, neck, and oral cancer; periodontal diseases and systemic diseases affecting oral health,” Dr. Reff added. “They also provide nutrition counseling and tobacco cessation support… and clean teeth!”

A holistic approach

Nurses are also playing a bigger role in preventive care, says Dr. Croft. “Many nurses now work for home health agencies, or treat people for minor ailments like strep throat or an ear ache in places like grocery stores with one-minute clinics.”

Dr. Croft stresses compassion and good communication skills for someone looking to a career in healthcare. “It’s not just about physical well-being. It is about safety, and the mental and emotional well-being of our patients.”

“Nursing is a very rewarding profession,” she adds. “You have an opportunity to make a difference every day. We give everything we’ve got to those who are entrusted with our care.”

– Laura Lyjak Crawford and  Naomi Sheehan

Student Success Story

Nursing Graduate Finds Caring for Patients Rewarding
Ruth Watts

Ruth Watts finds much about her work as an ambulatory surgery nurse rewarding. Some of the most satisfying rewards come in the form of hugs from her patients.

“I love caring for my patients,” Watts said. “They give a lot of hugs and they appreciate the care they get.”

Ruth Watts

Ruth Watts

Watts spent 11 years in various roles at Peoples Community Health Clinic before returning to school to pursue a nursing career. She transitioned from full time at the clinic to part-time employee and part-time student. The Nursing program at Hawkeye Community College worked into her hectic schedule as she balanced her education with work and three young children at home.

“There were people there to help, not just in the program but even other parts of the college to help you get your degree,” she said. “Having the ability to go and do the in-class work and then also be able to do clinicals at the different community hospitals in the area really helped.”

After graduating from Hawkeye, Watts worked as a pediatric nurse before moving to ambulatory surgery. Now she works with patients recovering from same-day surgeries and other outpatient procedures. Patients often ask where she grew up and where she went to school, wanting to know more about the person entrusted with their care. When she tells them she graduated from Hawkeye, the reaction is the same: “People gleam, they really say, ‘oh, that’s a good school!’”

Watts is proud of her education and proud that she’s now able to help people every day. With every hug she receives, she feels gratified to know she’s truly making an impact.

“It makes me feel good knowing that the training I received from Hawkeye is making a difference in someone else’s life.”