healthcare and medical professions

Tag: healthcare and medical professions

Shadowing in the Pandemic? A Guide to Connecting with Health Care Professionals during COVID

Shadowing is an excellent way to explore careers in health care and medicine. The process of shadowing involves observing a professional in their daily work environment to experience the real-life routines and challenges of your field of interest. Unfortunately, many students continue to face shadowing access challenges due to the ongoing pandemic.  However, if you are in this situation, there are still options for you to connect with professionals in the field! You do not need to miss out on the insights and benefits that shadowing can offer. If you want ideas for pandemic-era shadowing and connecting with health care professionals, this resource is for you! 

Is shadowing possible during COVID? 

Yes, and no. Many (but not all) health care shadowing programs have suspended their in-person programs during COVID. For example, ThedaCare (a large healthcare system in Fox Cities) is currently limiting college student shadowing experiences to students who are required to shadow as part of their formal college curriculum, such as nursing school students. However, shadowing policies may vary at this point in time, especially at private or independent practice clinics. For example, there are private/independent veterinary clinics, dental clinics, physical therapy clinics, and other healthcare clinics in the area that are currently allowing shadowing for interested college students who reach out. 

What alternatives are there? Informational Interviewing 

If you are having difficulty identifying shadowing opportunities, consider setting up some informational interviews. “Informational interview” is a fancy term for a simple concept: talking to people about what they do. If you have ever had a conversation with a family member or professor about their career, you have already essentially conducted an informational interview. Here are a few steps to get started with informational interviewing: 

1) Identify people you would like to meet with. You can search in Viking Connect, Lawrence’s alumni platform, to find Lawrence alumni who are working in your field of interest. Click “Explore the Community,” and then search by industry, keywords, etc. You can also reach out to Lawrence professors, friends or family members in the field, or other individuals in your field of interest. 

2) Contact the person to ask to meet. Send a brief email or message in which you say a bit about yourself, your career interests, and how you found the person you are contacting. Mention that you are interested in hearing about their field and/or their career path, and ask if they would be willing to meet for a short time (30 minutes) via Zoom, phone, in person, etc. 

3) Prepare and conduct the interview. The interview itself usually lasts around 30 minutes, and is led by you, the student interviewer. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time, based on what you are most interested in gaining from the experience. Do you want to learn about what their typical day looks like, or what experiences were most valuable for them when they were a student?  

4) Always send a thank-you note. Make sure to thank them for their time, and feel free to stay in touch. 

Also be aware that many health care professionals are working long and intense hours right now, and be respectful of the fact that some might not have the time to speak with students. 

What alternatives are there? Virtual Shadowing 

There are also quite a few opportunities for virtual shadowing experiences, and these are becoming increasingly more widespread due to the pandemic. Virtual shadowing experiences are usually quite different from in-person ones, and sometimes consist of pre-recorded videos as well as synchronous sessions. Make sure to check with each program to see if you can list it as official shadowing experience – this varies by program. 

While the virtual aspect can certainly take away from the direct nature of the experience, shadowing during COVID can offer some unique insight as well. Rarely before has it been possible to observe health care professionals at such an important time in the field, when their service to our communities is especially crucial. This can set the stage for meaningful conversations with health care professionals, if you have the opportunity to speak with them.  

Here is a sampling of virtual shadowing programs: 

HEAL Clinical Shadowing (physician) 

Webshadowers (physician) 

Medschool Coach Beyond Shadowing (physician) 

Teleshadowing (physician) 

Virtual Shadowing (mostly physician, some PA) 

Medical School Headquarters e-Shadowing (physician, PA) 

Pre-Health Shadowing (Medical, Nursing, Dental, Pharmaceutical, PA, PT) 

University of Colorado Virtual Shadowing (physician, nursing, PA) 

Physician Assistant Shadow Online (PASO) (PA) 

Ampers&PA Virtual Shadowing (PA) 

Empowered PAs (PA) 

OT Observation…Plan ‘B’ (Occupational Therapy) 

Dental Shadowers (Dental) 

Career Spotlight: Anesthesiology Assistant

Are you interested in health care careers, but don’t like the sound of 4+ years of professional school training? Not to worry! The truth is, there are many ways to have a sustainable and fulfilling career in health care, and being an anesthesiology assistant might be a great option for you. Are you interested in exploring this career path? Read on to learn about the role of an anesthesiology assistant! 

What do anesthesiology assistants do? 

Anesthesiology assistants work to design and implement anesthesia care plans as non-physician anesthesia care providers. Their jobs involve working directly with patients before, during, and after anesthesia. Before anesthesia, they may be responsible for making initial approaches to patients in order to obtain health histories, performing physical examinations, and recording data. During anesthesia, they may assist in inducing, maintaining, and altering anesthesia levels. Following anesthesia, they may conduct patient rounds, record progress, and complete case summaries. Other duties of anesthesiology assistants include performing regional anesthesia techniques, assisting in intensive care units and pain clinics, and carrying out administrative work relevant to the anesthesiology practice. 

Where do they work? 

Anesthesiology assistants work in a variety of clinical settings including hospitals, private physician offices, clinics, surgical centers, and medical institutions. The ability to become licensed and practice varies depending on the state. Anesthesiology practices in many states currently employ anesthesiology assistants, although in certain states they do not. Some states, including Wisconsin, allow for full licensure. Others, such as Michigan, allow for “Delegatory Authority,” which means practicing under the license of an anesthesiologist. See an up-to-date list of states here. 

Who do they work with? 

Anesthesiology assistants usually work as part of an Anesthesia Care Team and are directed by licensed anesthesiologists. Anesthesia Care Teams consist of physicians (anesthesiologists, anesthesiology fellows, etc.) and non-physicians (nurse anesthetists, anesthesiology assistants, etc). This team works together to provide care to each patient, and all members of the team make themselves known to the patient, so no one operates exclusively behind the scenes. Read more about Anesthesia Care Teams here. 

What training do they need? 

It usually takes about two years after completing a bachelor’s degree to become licensed as an anesthesiology assistant. This training consists of a master’s-level anesthesiology assistant program, at the end of which students may apply for licensure. Browse a list of CAAHEP-accredited master’s programs here (select “Anesthesiologist Assistant” for the profession name). Continuing medical education is also required in order to maintain a license. 

What is their pay and job outlook? 

Anesthesiology assistants are in high demand, because there is a consistent shortage of people trained in the administration of anesthesia. The average salary range for anesthesiology assistants is $95,000 to $180,000 per year, and the projected job growth from 2016 to 2026 is 37.4%, much higher than the average of 8%. 

Where can I go to find out more? Professional organizations and resources: 

Connecting with anesthesiology professional organizations is a great way to form connections and stay in the loop about upcoming events and resources. Here are some organizations you might want to look at: 

Lawrence Connections: Alumni in anesthesiology fields! 

Do you think you might be interested, but still have some questions? Or are you sure this is the job for you, and want some guidance along the winding path that leads there? At any stage of the process, no one can tell you the lay of the land better than an anesthesiology professional themselves! While there aren’t any alumni working directly as Anesthesiology Assistants, Adam Krings is a registered nurse studying nurse anesthesia at Mayo Clinic. Check out Viking Connect, Lawrence’s alumni platform, to find more alumni! 

Finding a career can be a long process, and sometimes one of the biggest challenges is learning what jobs are out there. Wherever your journey takes you, we’re glad you took the time to learn about this important career track! 

Career Spotlight: Mental Health Counselor

If there’s one thing pandemic isolation has taught us, it is the importance of mental health professionals in today’s world. With the rates of mental illnesses skyrocketing in the U.S. (particularly among young adults and underrepresented populations), mental health counselors are providing vital resources to our communities [read CDC statistics on U.S. mental health and the pandemic here]Are you interested in exploring a career as a mental health counselor? Read on to learn what this career could look like! 

What do mental health counselors do? 

Mental health counselors meet with individuals one-on-one or in groups to help clients improve their mental and emotional health. Often, mental health counselors work with clients who have diagnosable mental disorders, but counselors may also work with individuals experiencing emotional distress as part of daily life and expected transitions. This job often requires completing an initial psychological assessment with a client, developing a treatment plan with the client, and meeting regularly for some length of time. It may also include communication with people besides the client, such as parents, schools, and doctors. If you enjoy listening, empathizing, and problem-solving, this might be a good career for you! 

Where do they work? 

Some mental health counselors are self-employed and work in private practice, while others are employed by agencies such as nonprofits, schools, and companies. Some may work as part of a treatment team in intensive outpatient and hospital settings as well. 

Who do they work with? 

Mental health counselors can see clients of any age. Many counselors specialize in certain populations, such as an age group or a particular mental health issue. Some counselors also specialize in a certain method of counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, or psychoanalysis. Each specialization will involve slightly different duties, and there are many opportunities for further training after becoming licensed. 

What training do they need? 

Practicing as a mental health counselor requires a license, such as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) or LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) – the name varies by state. To get licensed, a counselor must complete a training program, usually a two-year master’s program in counseling or mental health counseling. Browse a list of CACREP-accredited masters programs here. The licensing requirements vary by state, and usually include some hours of internship and work experience after completing the master’s program. 

What is their pay and job outlook? 

Demand for mental health counselors is very high, and is growing. This may be due to an increased need of counseling services, and is likely also influenced by the fact that health insurances are covering increasingly more mental health services. The mental health counseling occupation is projected to grow 23% in the next 10 years, compared to the average of 8%. While salaries vary widely depending on experience, location, and employer, the median salary for mental health counselors was around $47,660 per year in 2020. Counselors in urban areas tend to earn more (although the cost of living is also typically higher), while counselors in more rural areas tend to earn less. 

Where can I go to find out more? Professional organizations and resources: 

Connecting with mental health organizations is a great way to meet people in the field and stay informed of upcoming events and resources. Here are some organizations you might like to take a look at:

Lawrence Connections: Alumni in the mental health counseling field!  

Do you think you might be interested, but still have some questions? Or are you sure this is the job for you, and want some guidance along the winding path that leads there? At any stage of the process, no one can tell you the lay of the land better than a mental health counselor themselves. And one with a Lawrence background will understand where you are coming from as well as where you might be headed. Here are a few alumni in the mental health counseling field: Cynthia Stocum, Ariana Thelen, Sally Burns. Check out Lawrence’s alumni platform, Viking Connect, to find more alumni! 

Whether your journey ends in mental health counseling or somewhere else, thanks for taking a few minutes to learn more about this career track that’s meeting a critical need in our communities! 

Career Highlight: Applied Behavioral Analyst

Interested in pursuing a career as an applied behavioral analyst? Read on to find out more information about what this job looks like!

Job Duties
As an applied behavioral analyst, your primary patients will be children, especially those with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other neurological and developmental disabilities or disorders. This position often requires conducting an initial interview to assess the child, as well as setting short- and long-term goals with the child and their parents/caregivers and tracking growth and/or behavioral shifts. Tracking may include identifying improvements in addition to conditioning harmful or maladaptive behaviors. Much of the work involves leading applied behavioral analysis therapy sessions, in addition to communicating with parents/caregivers regarding the child’s progress. Applied behavioral analysts often work 1:1, although group work is relatively common, typically through a school or other community organization. Finally, an applied behavioral analyst may additionally provide training — both to ABA interns and lower-level employees who may interact with the child, and to the child’s parents/caregivers.

Where They Work
Applied behavioral analysts often work through organizations dedicated to working with autistic children — for example, the Wisconsin Early Autism Project is a major hub for applied behavioral analysts in Wisconsin — as well as having opportunities to work through schools or even children’s hospitals.

Working Conditions
A general requirement is that as an applied behavioral analyst will be working with children — they will need to be able to work alongside them, and within the typical environments they occupy, including the home, school, etc. This is very varied to each child’s needs, but typically requires a great degree of movement that would not be found at a typical desk job — for example, you may be expected to spend most of the day transitioning between kneeling, sitting, squatting, standing, even carrying the child. Local travel is often necessary, although the degree to which you will need to travel varies. Many applied behavioral analysts work within a patients home environment, others work from a home-base clinic where the patients come to you. Permanent employment within an organization is likely and many applied behavioral analysts work full or mostly-full time — however, children/families may cycle according to their needs. Additionally, many organizations offer part-time employment in addition to full-time; this most notably includes offers to those still currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree.

Who They Work With
Applied behavioral analysts work primarily with children with ASD and their families and/or caregivers. Most frequently, an applied behavioral analyst will work by themselves with the child, although they may be expected to communicate with other members of a treatment team (the child’s pediatrician, other members of the clinic, etc.). Some applied behavioral analysts additionally work in a group setting, with multiple children.

Education and Training
Education really varies by state, and there are a couple of very similar positions to applied behavioral analyst. For example, an applied behavioral analysis technician (or assistant) typically only requires a high school degree — however these positions are almost always part-time. Typically an applied behavioral analyst either has a degree in a related field (commonly psychology, behavioral analysis, etc.) or is currently in pursuit of that degree — although some positions will prefer a candidate with a master’s (of psychology or behavioral analysis). As applied behavioral analysis as a therapeutic technique is quite specific, most organizations will provide extensive training as the initial job duties after first being hired — this will then transition into the typical job duties described above.

Pay and Job Outlook
As with many therapy positions, pay varies between states. As such, a general range of estimated yearly salary is between $35k per year and $62k per year — with the lower end pulling from more rural areas and the higher end reflecting potions in large cities. Pay is also significantly dependent on education and experience on the job — applied behavioral analysts will typically experience a peak in their salary after about 5 years of experience. Additionally, demand for applied behavioral analysts is very high. Employment growth over the next ten years, as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, is expected to be 18-20%, which is much faster growth than the average across all positions and fields.

Career Highlight: Occupational Therapist

Interested in pursuing occupational therapy as a career? Read on to find out more information about what a job as an occupational therapist looks like!

Job Duties
As an occupational therapist, frequently your job will involve evaluating and assisting people with various physical and/or neurological disabilities. For example, you may lead an autistic child in reciprocal play, or demonstrate healthy and/or alleviating exercises for people with chronic health conditions. As a result, your day to day activities will vary, and require a lot of flexibility. Part of this may include evaluating and assisting with updating a person’s home and/or work environment to ensure their health needs are being met. This often includes educating family, caregivers, and employers on how a patient can be best accommodated, providing information such has how to help them through a meltdown or flareup of symptoms, and how to use special equipment when necessary. Finally, occupational therapists work with the patient to develop a treatment plan to help the patient meet their own health goals.

Where They Work
Occupational therapists work in a variety of locations, depending on the patients they see. Many occupational therapists are employed by either hospitals or private healthcare practices. However, some work in educational settings, as schools will sometimes hire occupational therapists to help with child development in special needs circumstances. Retirement facilities will additionally hire occupational therapists to assist their elderly residents get accustomed to life in assisted living. And as may be suggested by the job duties, many occupational therapists additionally visit the homes of their patients to provide better hands on care.

Working Conditions
Work hours for occupational therapists are often flexible, suited to their patient’s needs. Most occupational therapists work full time (40 hours a week), and many work only during weekdays, similar to a typical day job. However, many also work nights and/or weekends when needed, in order to accommodate their patients and better recognize their needs. As previously mentioned, most will work in either an office of occupational therapy or hospital as a type of home base — where paperwork and planning commences. However when engaging with their patients, typically occupational therapists will spend a lot of time on their feet. This can include helping a patient get outside for some exercise, generally assisting around the house, etc. Additionally, local travel is often necessary for OTs who may need to visit patients in their homes as well as patients in a hospital or hospice care situation, as many OTs will treat patients in multiple facilities.

Who They Work With
The disabled, chronically ill, neurodivergent, and elderly are the populations typically served by occupational therapists, although exceptions exist. An occupational therapist will have the most interaction with their patients and caregivers, in addition to other occupational therapists. This is especially true if they work out of a private practice or hospital setting, where multiple occupational therapists are employed by the same organization (by contrast, schools will typically only hire one occupational therapist). In a hospital setting, an occupational therapist may expect to work with nurses and doctors as well, when necessary.

Education and Training
Occupational Therapists are required to go through quite a bit of education and training. The first major step is to take the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) exam in order to get their license to practice. However, most occupational therapists elect (and most states require) to obtain a 2-year associates degree in Occupational Therapy, as these programs prepare you to sit the COTA. After successfully passing the COTA, you can find work as an occupational therapist assistant and gain valuable fieldwork experience. In order to become a full-fledged Occupational Therapist, a masters’ degree in Occupational Therapy is required — although many programs exist that combine bachelor’s and master’s in occupational therapy. Finally, you must take a final exam — the Occupational Therapy Registered (OTR) — and obtain state licensure, whose requirements vary based on location. Then you’ll be able to practice!

Pay and Job Outlook
Pay varies based on state and on where you are on your career journey. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that in 2020, the median pay for an occupational therapist was $86k per year, or $41 per hour. However, occupational therapy assistants make a little less, on a range from around $36k/year to as much as $60k/year — all dependent on geographic location. As can be expected, occupational therapists in the midwestern states and smaller cities/towns make a smaller average than occupational therapists who work in large cities, especially along the coasts. That said, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects employment for occupational therapists to grow up to 16% in the next ten years, which is much faster than the average employment growth across all occupations. They suggest that occupational therapy will continue to be vital in treating people with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, autism, or the loss of a limb.

Career Pathways in Psychology: To Grad School Or Not To Grad School

Career pathways are often at the forefront of soon-to-be graduates mind’s —and often even on the mind’s of sophomores and juniors — as you prepare to make the decision of whether to apply to graduate programs or not. In the field of psychology, there are myriad career pathways — some require different levels of graduate education, but some are possible with just your BA. Take a look at a brief (but certainly not exhaustive) list of ideas below!

I’m interested in getting a Master’s or PhD — which degree is suitable for what position?
Positions requiring graduate degrees in psychology will often involve some level of direct therapy with patients. Often, attaining a Master’s in psychology alongside licensure can provide you with the qualification to work as a counselor in an organizational setting, as a Staff Psychologist, and as a School Psychologist. Something to consider for these types of positions is what clientele you would prefer to work with. Obviously, school psychologists will work with children and adolescents, whereas a staff psychologist will work with members of a specific organization’s staff to ensure good health and mental well-being in a work environment.

Getting a doctorate — PhD or PsyD — in psychology, along with appropriate licensure, opens the door to private practice as a Clinical or Counseling Psychologist. This will enable you to work 1:1 with patients in a private setting — either your own or someone else’s clinic. Additionally, if you’re interested in leading your own research or teaching, a PhD is a requirement for many positions in academia.

I only want to get my BA in psychology, or I’m not sure about graduate school  what opportunities are out there for me?
While clinical and counseling therapy positions require higher education, there are plenty of positions in mental health that only require you to have a BA in psychology — and some you can even start while still pursuing your degree. For example, an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Instructor typically requires a BA, or even occasionally just the current pursuit of a BA, where you will get to work as an interventionist for educating and treating children with autism and autism-spectrum disorders.

Additionally, you could look into becoming a Mental Health Case Manager, where you will oversee a caseload of clients with long-term mental illnesses. Rather than providing direct therapy treatment, case managers help clients assess their needs and implement or review plans for service, while also connecting clients with community resources.

Finally, if you’re interested in pursuing research, or want to explore research as a career pathway without committing to years of graduate schooling, most Research Assistant positions in Psychology require a BA in psychology or other related social science. Research assistant experience also looks excellent on future graduate school applications, if that does end up being a possibility in the future.