If you're planning to go into a healthcare field, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of information available. Healthcare education covers an extremely wide range of careers, and if you plan to go into nursing you probably don't have much interest in resources for administration or other related fields. That being said, most healthcare degrees are quite strenuous, and you’ll need all the help you can get in order to successfully complete your degree and begin your career. The following will give you a wide range of resources to help you on your path; it's a good idea to open a new folder as you begin to read so you can pinpoint and save the resources most valuable to your own personal education and career goals.
Top Resources for Healthcare Education Students
Accreditation should be at the top of your list when choosing a school. Why? Because accreditation is the quality control of education, and your career may depend on it.
Accreditors evaluate each school for coursework, teaching, and student learning curves, as well as checking into peer reviews and other criteria to determine whether the school meets national standards. This is especially important to healthcare students because most state licensing and certification boards require your education to be from an accredited school in order for you to be eligible to sit for exams. In addition, all federal aid and many scholarships and grants use accreditation as a qualification for eligibility, so if your school of choice isn't accredited you won't be able to receive financial aid.
For healthcare, there is a specific set of accrediting agencies that oversee health specific courses. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) https://www.caahep.org/ accredits over 2,100 programs in 32 different health science occupations and that is what you should look for. Below you will also find the regional accrediting bodies the operate throughout the US.
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
In addition, the following organizations provide accreditation for different fields and aspects of healthcare and may be a requirement for certain courses or internships:
Questions about Financial Aid
College isn't cheap, but you shouldn't let the bottom line prevent you from attending. There are many options to pay for your education as long as you know where to look. It's a good idea to join several websites specific to education funds so you can take advantage of any and all scholarships or grants you might qualify for. Some healthcare careers, such as nursing, are in such high demand that states may offer you a reciprocal loan for you to gain the education you need: this means that they will pay for your education in return for a certain number of years working within the state after graduation.
There are four basic types of financial aid for college. Here's a brief explanation of each:
A grant is basically a gift and is usually awarded based on financial need. They are typically rewarded by schools, state governments, the federal government, and non-profit organizations. Because many healthcare occupations fall under the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) there are many grants specific to medical fields.
Scholarships are monies that you must qualify for, usually based on talent, merit, or academic performance. They can cover your entire education or only a specific course and are offered by a wide range of sources including foundations, private businesses, non-profit organizations, and schools.
- Federal Loans:
Federal loans are funded by the government depending on need and eligibility. To determine whether you qualify, you'll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa, which is also used by many sources of grants and scholarships.
- Private Loans:
Personal loans are private student loans from a bank or other financial institution such as a credit union. To qualify you'll need to meet specific credit criteria, so if your credit score is low, or non-existent, you'll most likely need a cosigner in order to receive a private loan.
Healthcare Education Associations for Students
There are many associations affiliated with healthcare, and you should plan to join several that are specific to your future career. It's important to note while there are some organizations just for students, most professional organizations also offer special discounted or free memberships for those who are still in the student body. Joining these associations will give you valuable resources and networking opportunities within your chosen field and will offer great benefits in your professional career. Here are some examples of the variety of associations available:
- Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) – Student Pharmacist Membership:
The AMCP is tasked with supporting education, research, and improved managed care pharmaceutical outcomes in the healthcare environment; a student membership is offered.
- American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) – Physician Assistant Students:
AAPA represents over 131,000 physician assistants throughout the country in all surgical and medical specialties, educating and advocating to ensure personal excellence, professional growth, and recognition for the field.
- American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) – Student Associates:
The ACHE mission is to advance leadership in the healthcare management industry; student membership is available.
- American College of Physicians (ACP) – Medical Student Membership:
The ACP is a must for medical students, as membership will help you through the difficult years it will take to become a licensed physician. Student membership should be on the top of your list if you plan to become a doctor.
- American Student Dental Association (ASDA):
If dentistry is in your future, joining the ASDA should be on the top of your list. This is a national organization run by students and ASDA membership will provide help from your entry into dental school through beginning your professional career.
- National Student Nurses Association (NSNA):
Nursing school is tough, and the NSNA provides mentorship and help to develop the skills you need to graduate and earn licensure in your nursing education and career.
- Student National Medical Association (SMNA):
The SMNA is dedicated to supporting minority medical students to increase the number of clinically competent physicians throughout the country.
Student or Open Access Journals
Professional journals may seem like something reserved for those already in a healthcare career, but in fact, they can be a valuable resource for students as well. Journals are an excellent means to stay on top of advancements in your future field and will also keep you abreast of current trends and future needs.
As with most career fields, healthcare students are required to research and write white papers as part of their academic process, and journals will be a leading resource for material for both papers and experiments. Many journals are open access, meaning they are available to all. Others may require membership in an association in order to delve into the journals they are affiliated with. However, while you are in school, you should check your library for access to professional journals as well, as some libraries hold subscriptions for student use. Here are examples of open access journals available to healthcare students:
We live in a world of technology, and education has taken advantage of the evolving phenomena of online and mobile applications (apps). There are hundreds of apps available for study aids, life organization, time management, and everything else under the sun, so you should make the effort to find and use the ones most valuable to your specific field of study.
In addition to specialized apps there are many more designed to ease the strife of student life, so make sure you are proactive in finding useful tools that fit into your own personal lifestyle and curriculum. Here are examples of apps used by all students as well as those in medical fields:
- My Study Life allows you to track classes, exams, assignments, and everything else related to your classwork.
- Evernote is just what it sounds like: the best note taking app you'll ever find.
- DailyMed provides information about all drugs marketed in the US.
- Drug Information Portal Mobile is the major gateway for US Government agency drug information.
- MedlinePlus covers medications, diseases, wellness topics, conditions, and the latest news in the field of medicine.
- PHPartners (Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce) provides access to selected public health tools, resources, statistics, and data.
- PubMed Mobile is the database of more than 24 million citations from life science journals, MEDLINE, and online medical books.
Most careers in healthcare require a minimum internship as part of your education as well as your licensing or certification criteria, so you should be mindful of the internships your school provides. Make sure it meets the criteria for work experience hours for certification and be aware of the requirements for reporting your hours worked.
You should learn in advance which internships are most respected by future employers, and make sure the internship you apply for meets your study requirements as well. Remember, many students receive offers of future employment from their intern position so make sure, if possible, to choose one with your future career in mind.
Resources for Students and Professionals
Healthcare Education Certification Options
If your goal is to become a healthcare educator your long term plan should include one or more certifications in the field. The national commission for health education credentialing (NCHEC) https://www.nchec.org/ches is the organization charged with certification, and they have strict guidelines that must be met in order for you to be awarded certification. Each level of certification has specific requirements in both education and experience in order to showcase your level of competence. For example, the first certification is considered entry-level while the Master Specialist requires five years of experience in the field. Both certifications require you to sit for an exam that will verify your knowledge base and competency: the exams are 165 multiple choice questions that cover the basic seven areas of healthcare education and must be completed in 3.5 hours.
- Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)
- Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES )
Certification Study Resources
Certification exams are tough; that's why they're used to showcase your skills and knowledge base. When you're ready to schedule your exam, you shouldn't rely on your previous education and experience to get you through. NCHEC provides many resources to aid in your study for the exam you plan to take. It's a good idea to use more than one source of study to ensure your confidence in all areas presented on the exam. Here are a few other study tools you can use:
- CHES practice Exam provides a sample test you can practice with to get a feel for the scope and types of questions on the exam.
- Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) offers exam prep videos.
- Exam Edge offers practice tests with detailed explanations of each question.
- Study Guide Zone offers both a guide and a practice test.
When you're ready to apply for jobs, remember to check the professional associations you've already joined as many offer job boards with membership. Here are other job boards specific to the healthcare industry:
Temp agencies for healthcare are designed to help hospitals and other healthcare organizations fill short term staffing needs. Though the positions are sometimes seasonal (such as areas with an influx of vacationers or summer residents), temp agencies are an excellent source of jobs for healthcare professionals unable or unwilling to land a full-time position. They are often perfect for students or new graduates as well because many professions require experience before hiring full-time, and these agencies are a boon to seasoned professionals looking for extra hours.
It's important to note that, while temp agencies provide temporary positions, these often lead to direct hiring once the employer sees the capabilities of the person filling the temp position.
Resources for Healthcare Education Professionals
Professional Healthcare Educator Associations
Once you're out of school and in the healthcare educator workforce, you'll find membership in one or more professional associations to be vital for your career. These organizations offer professional development (often a requirement to maintain certification), networking opportunities, and resource materials pertinent to your field; most also offer discounts for conferences, classes, books, and similar resources.
If you're already a student member, you can upgrade membership once you graduate, and perhaps become part of the mentorship program most associations offer. This will give both personal fulfillment and a monetary boost, as you'll be able to add mentorship experience to your latest resume.
Popular Healthcare Education Journals
By the time you become a healthcare educator, you'll be well versed in the value journals gave to your academic career; they will also be vital to your career as a healthcare educator. Professional journals will help you stay on top of the latest advances in the field, offer opportunities for you to become published, and give insight on issues and accomplishments within the health educator field. By continuing your habit of reading peer reviewed journals, you'll demonstrate the latest knowledge and innovations in the field of healthcare education and understand upcoming changes which may affect your career and field of expertise.
Industry Conferences for Healthcare Professionals
Industry conferences are the place to be if you're serious about your career, and that holds especially true for healthcare educators. There are literally hundreds of conferences dedicated to various aspects of the field of healthcare, and educators are on the front lines because it's their job to pass new information on to the next generation of students.
Besides being a font of knowledge, conferences are the perfect places to network with peers as you'll be surrounded by hundreds of like-minded individuals. If possible, you should make a point of attending several conferences a year. Keep in mind the recertification requirements for your state so that you can add the maximum conference hours to your continuing professional education requirements when it comes time to renew your certification or licensure. Here are a few examples of healthcare conferences in the US:
- Healthcare Transformation Summit:
This conference provides insight into the strategies used by healthcare business innovators, leaders, and influencers to improve outcomes, reduce costs, and create new revenue opportunities.
- Primary Care & Pharmacology Conference:
presents the latest clinical knowledge and innovations critical to the field of medicine.
- Health Effects Institute Annual Conference:
How pollution and other aspects of the EPA affect healthcare.
- Women's Health Update:
the latest developments pertaining to women's' health.