People and places
Health educators generally work in
healthcare facilities, schools, private businesses, public
health departments, and nonprofit organizations. Where
they work determines their job duties and the types of
people they serve.
Healthcare. In hospitals, clinics,
and other healthcare settings, health educators often work
one-on-one with patients and their families. These health
educators might fully explain a patientís diagnosis and
any tests, surgeries, or other procedures that may be
required. They might also teach the patient about
lifestyle changes that are necessary to manage the disease
or to assist with recovery. They might, for example, show
a patient with diabetes how to test blood sugar and take
insulin. At times, these health educators locate services,
such as in-home healthcare or support groups, that will
assist the patient in managing an illness.
In addition to working with patients, health educators
in healthcare facilities might develop educational
programs for the community. Topics could include
instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first
aid, proper nutrition, or self-examination for disease.
Planning these programs often requires collaboration with
doctors, nurses, and other staff.
Health educators might also develop
educational materials for other departments within a
healthcare facility. This may require participating on a
committee to develop resources for patient education, such
as brochures, Web sites, or classes, or working with
individual departments to ensure that health education
materials exist for each medical specialty. In some cases,
health educators might also be asked to provide training
in patient interaction to other hospital staff.
Schools. School-based health
educators work primarily with students. In colleges and
universities, they generally cover topics that affect
young adults, such as smoking, nutrition, and sexual
activity. Health educators might need to alter their
teaching methods to attract audiences to their events. For
example, they might show popular movies and then discuss
the health issues addressed, or they might hold workshops
in a dorm or cafeteria. Health educators may also recruit
and train students to serve as peer educators and advise
the students in planning events. Some college-based health
educators also teach health courses for academic credit or
run workshops, give lectures, or provide demonstrations
for new-student orientation programs.
Compared with health educators in other
settings, those working in junior high and high schools
typically spend more time in a classroom than in an
office. This is because health educators at this level
often teach health class. They develop lesson plans for
teaching topics that are relevant and age appropriate for
their students. At times, they may need to cover sensitive
subjects, such as prevention of pregnancy, sexually
transmitted diseases, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Private business. Health educators
based in private businesses create programs for educating
a firmís employees as a whole, organizing programs that
fit the workersí schedules. Schedule-sensitive programs
might include arranging lunchtime speakers or daylong
health screenings so workers may come when it is
convenient for them.
Health educators in corporate settings
must align their work with the overall goals of their
employer. For example, a health educator working for a
medical supply company may hold programs relating to the
companyís newest products on the market.
Public health. Health educators in
public health are employed primarily by State and local
departments of public health and are, therefore, often
responsible for administering State-mandated programs. As
part of this work, they inform other professionals about
changes to health policy.
Health educators in public health work
closely with nonprofit organizations to help them get the
resources they need, such as grants, to continue serving
the community. Also, these health educators often sit on
statewide councils or national committees, including those
that study issues related to aging.
Nonprofit organizations. Many
health educators work in nonprofit organizations that
educate about a particular disease or target a specific
population. Therefore, health educators in this setting
are usually limited in the topics they cover or the people
Work in a nonprofit organization might include creating
print-based material for distributing throughout the
community, often in conjunction with organizing lectures,
health screenings, and activities related to increasing
awareness. Health educators work with other nonprofit
organizations or with individuals within the communities
they are trying to serve.
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