As a part of Pennsylvania's eighth annual Health Careers Week, five careers in the health care field have been identified as being in demand locally.
Medical Billing and Coding
According to The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), medical coding is the transformation of narrative descriptions of diseases, injuries, and healthcare procedures into code numbers. The code numbers are detailed in order to accurately describe the diagnoses and the procedures performed to test or correct these diagnoses. Because medicine is not always an exact science, codes were developed to identify all reasons for seeking healthcare.
Coding health-related data permits access to health records according to diagnoses and procedures for use in clinical care, research, and education. Common uses of medical codes in healthcare include:
Identifying symptoms that must be evaluated and to alert other healthcare professionals to life-threatening allergies.
Reporting services performed for reimbursement.
Helping with administrative functions such as staffing, scheduling, and adding or decreasing healthcare services.
Comparing facilities and planning for new services in underserved areas.
Anita Price, director of health information management at Warren General Hospital, explained there are several areas in which a person can work in the medical billing coding field including, but not limited to, physician-based, in-patient and out-patient coding.
"Nobody can bill unless they have the right codes," she noted.
Just as there are different types of coding, there are also various certifications a person can obtain to be employed in the field. For example:
Certified coding associate: certification can be achieved by taking a course.
Certified coding specialist: requires at least two years of experience to take the qualifying test.
Certified coding specialist-physician-based: mastery-level coding with expertise in physician-based settings.
Price said the aptitudes needed for being a medical coder include being detail-oriented, a desire to work in a quiet environment and an affinity for reading.
According to WGH registered dietician Agnes McKenna, the education requirements for person in her field are a minimum of four years at an accredited college or university in which an internship is included. Registered Dietitians also must pass an exam by the American Dietetic Association to become registered in the various states. To keep a registered status, dieticians must complete the required 75 continuing education units (CEUs) every five years.
"This is the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist," she said.
The duties of a registered dietician include translating the science of nutrition into practical every day solutions for people to live healthier lives.
"This is to distinguish the facts from fads to help individuals enjoy a healthy lifestyle to improve their health and fight diseases," McKenna said. "We can be found in schools, nursing homes, private settings and hospitals developing personalized meal plans for individuals of all ages."
Debbie Morris is a registered nurse and education coordinator at the Rouse Warren County Home, and she believes compassion is integral trait a person should possess when seeking a career as a nursing assistant.
"You have to have a desire to be a caring person," she said.
To start on the road to be a nursing assistant, a high school diploma or GED is the first requirement. Education starts with a four-week course, which must be approved by the state Department of Education.
From there, 37 clinical hours are completed before a final exam and skills test is administered.
"Then they are considered a nurse aide trainee," Morris said.
The trainee will then take a written and skills test administered by the state.
"Once they pass, then they are put on a registry," Morris added.
Nursing assistants in a nursing home setting help residents with activities of daily living (ADLs) which include personal hygiene, dressing and undressing, feeding, functional transfers and toileting.
Morris described a few different avenues to becoming a registered nurse. For example, some urban hospitals offer 18-month diploma programs which concentrate only on nursing skills. Secondly, two-year or associate degree programs are available through community colleges. Next, a person can obtain a four-year Bachelor's degree in nursing.
"In essence, they all take the same test," she said, adding that the test is the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination).
At nursing homes like the Rouse, registered nurses often serve as supervisors.
"They oversee the aides, the LPNs. They also oversee the entire delivery of care," Morris said. "They are the liaison to the doctor. They are the doctor's eyes and ears."
According the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are many options for RNs who specialize in a work setting or type of treatment. Ambulatory care nurses provide preventive care and treat patients with a variety of illnesses and injuries in physicians' offices or in clinics. Some ambulatory care nurses are involved in telehealth, providing care and advice through electronic communications media such as videoconferencing, the Internet, or by telephone. Critical care nurses provide care to patients with serious, complex, and acute illnesses or injuries that require close monitoring and extensive medication protocols and therapies. Critical care nurses often work in critical or intensive care hospital units. Emergency, or trauma, nurses work in hospital or stand-alone emergency departments, providing initial assessments and care for patients with life-threatening conditions. Some emergency nurses may become qualified to serve as transport nurses, who provide medical care to patients who are transported by helicopter or airplane to the nearest medical facility. There are many more specializations.
Home Health Aide
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home health aides and personal and home care aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired and older adults, who may need assistance, live in their own homes or in residential facilities instead of in health facilities or institutions.
They also assist people in hospices and day programs and help individuals with disabilities go to work and remain engaged in their communities. Most aides work with elderly or physically or mentally disabled clients who need more care than family or friends can provide. Others help discharge hospital patients who have relatively short-term needs.
Aides provide light housekeeping and homemaking tasks such as laundry, change bed linens, shop for food, plan and prepare meals. Aides also may help clients get out of bed, bathe, dress, and groom. Some accompany clients to doctors' appointments or on other errands.
Home health aides and personal and home care aides are generally not required to have a high school diploma. They usually are trained on the job by registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, experienced aides or a supervisor. Aides may be trained in cooking for special diets and basic housekeeping tasks, such as making a bed and keeping the home sanitary and safe for the client. Generally, they are taught how to respond to an emergency, learning basic safety techniques.