CIC - Winter 2020

Behind the Scenes: A Glimpse Into Healthcare Service Careers

Healthcare is essential to our communities and with our aging population the need for healthcare workers is going to be more important than ever before.

Behind the scenes or on the frontlines of health care, there are so many careers in the health sciences field that will appeal to a wide range of personalities, and colleges across the country are ready to provide the practical education required.

According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the job outlook for patient service and other assisting occupations in support of health services have a an unemployment rate of only 3%, well below the national average.

As with most health sector occupations, the need for long-term care will increase due to the rising numbers of our aging population. As well, with the number of seniors continuing to grow, the need for hospital care will also increase. 

Healthcare courses offered by Canadian colleges and institutes include such careers as paramedics, practical nurses, imaging and lab technicians, dental hygienists, opticians and personal support workers. There are also many jobs that don’t involve direct patient care but are under the medical umbrella, such as health information management workers, clinical researchers, medical office administrators, medical transcriptionists, pharmacy technicians and the list goes on.

Kristjana Fjelsted RN is a Nurse Therapist at a large hospital. She says, “I would never be able to do my job if it wasn’t for the support staff. They are an integral part of the healthcare team and are critical to making sure my patients receive quality care.”

One important member of the care team is the Health Information Manager who uses a combination of business, science and information technology to collect, analyze and organize health data, providing information that is used by hospital management, government funding bodies and researchers to optimize health care delivery.

Health Information Managers must have a thorough understanding of health information privacy and the legal issues which may arise.

HIMs are found in hospitals, family practice clinics, research agencies, legal firms, community health services and government agencies.

Another behind-the-scenes but very important position is that of Medical Office Administrator. They apply their knowledge of electronic medical records to manage files, look after billing and accounting practices and manage offices in health services environments.  Some other duties may include booking appointments, processing insurance payments and managing patient records and test results.

Medical office administrators will find employment in doctor’s offices, hospitals, resident care facilities and professional healthcare offices. 

Julie Meadows is a medical office administrator for a family practice clinic. She says, ìI get a great deal of job satisfaction from my career as a medical office administrator. I knew I wanted to do something in the healthcare field because I really love helping people but I can’t stand the sight of blood. So I decided to go into administration.î She adds, “I feel like I am an important part of the health care profession even though I’m not providing any actual patient care. It’s so important to make sure health records are kept properly to make sure a patient receives the proper care they need.”

An additional option is Clinical Research, combining quality assurance, research design concepts and analysis of data. College graduates can expect to find careers as clinical research assistants, clinical records associates or clinical trials monitors. Clinical researchers also participate in the clinical trials development process for new products including pharmaceuticals, natural health products and medical devices.

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings that doctors and other healthcare professionals make regarding patient care and convert them into written reports. They must have a good knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, treatment assessments, pharmacology and diagnostic procedures. Some transcriptionists listen to a physician’s dictation to transcribe the report but increasingly, the use of speech recognition technology to create a draft report means that they are reviewing the drafts and making changes or edits as necessary.

Pharmacy Technicians may interact with patients at retail pharmacies, but they are also needed in health centres, clinics and hospitals as well as retirement homes, rehab centres and other extended care facilities.

Pharmacy Technicians help Pharmacists maintain proper inventory levels of medications, prepare medications for clients, compound solutions, ointments and creams, bill insurance companies and ensure that information on prescriptions is correct.

Barb Campbell is a pharmacy assistant at a busy pharmacy located in a retail grocery store. “Making sure patients get the medication they need at the proper dosage is the most important thing that I do.  Mistakes can be life-threatening,” she says.

Another employment option to consider is a Medical Device Reprocessing Technician. They are responsible for instruments and medical devices in terms of decontamination, assembly, preparation, sterilization and storage. The MDR Technician is an invaluable member of the healthcare team.

The Canadian Job Bank projects that the labour market will continue to experience a shortage of healthcare workers and through job openings and job creation, the health sector will continue to show an increased demand for qualified employees until at least 2028.

Colleges and institutes are a great option for students who want to enter the workforce quickly as most courses are three years in length or less, so a career in healthcare is attainable in a relatively short period of time.

And with colleges providing practical education through on-the-job training, their students are ready to hit the ground running right after graduation. 

By Jackie Fritz