As a patient in a hospital or clinic, you see nurses, doctors and specialized direct-care personnel. But healthcare is also a business. If you're interested in working in a healthcare setting and have transferable skills, you may be just a few steps away from being qualified.
"With the sudden decline in high tech, more and more people are considering [working in healthcare]," says John Lew, recruitment and retention manager for Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston.
While previous employment in a healthcare setting and knowledge of healthcare systems is preferred, most job descriptions do not state educational requirements beyond those needed for the same occupations elsewhere.
Positions Requiring Specialized Education
Some business positions within healthcare require education specific to the healthcare industry. If your studies included the sciences or business, you may have less education ahead of you. The amount of study needed varies with the position. With the exception of medical assistants, the occupations listed below do not include direct care.
Medical assistants are the people you meet when you enter a doctor's office. Their job is a hybrid of business and medicine. They check you in, process your records, keep appointments, track prescriptions and perform some direct care, such as taking blood pressure, assisting the doctor in an examining room and performing simple lab tests. Some are trained on the job, but more frequently, they have associate's degrees that can be earned in two years at a community college.
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Health Information Managers and Technicians
Health information managers manage the flow of medical records and other information. Although they don't normally interact with patients, they still must have knowledge of medical terminology, medical law and medical coding systems. Preparation for a career in health information management is typically a bachelor's degree in the field.
Though junior to health information managers, health information technicians are also responsible for medical information. An associate's degree is usually required. Health information clerks are junior to health information technicians. They work with charts and other medical information.
You can find accredited bachelor's, associate's and certificate programs in health information management through the American Health Information Management Association.
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Medical transcriptionists transcribe recorded patient histories and clinical information. They need knowledge of medical terminology and the language and writing skills to transfer abbreviated and simplified note-taking into usable information for medical files. Community colleges offer associate's degrees in medical transcription. The Association for Healthcare Documentation has extensive information about medical transcription careers.
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Secretaries manage information flow within medical offices just as with any business office. Office software skills are increasingly necessary, as is an understanding of medical terminology, which can be learned on the job, through in-house training or specialized courses. Training is available at vocational high schools, training institutes and community colleges.
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This is an umbrella title for a range of tasks. A healthcare administrator oversees the organization and flow of a healthcare office or project. Financial management, staff coordination, project planning, and policy and procedure implementation are common responsibilities. Candidates should understand finance, business organization, law and ethics as they relate to a healthcare setting. A master's degree in healthcare administration is usually required for this career track, though some people take an alternate route by getting an MBA with a concentration in healthcare.
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The healthcare industry is large and varied, with many opportunities at institutions of all sizes. It can also be demanding. "People have a misconception of healthcare as laid-back," Lew says. "We're actually pretty lean. Employees are asked to juggle."