11:42 AM AKDT, November 2, 2012
In 2011, the first of the baby boom generation reached age 65. Since then and until the year 2029, it is estimated that boomers will turn 65 at a rate of about 8,000 per day, according to AARP. This generation has impacted a number of institutions in its wake including the health care field. Job opportunity in this arena will continue to grow making a career in health attractive not only to those just entering college, but also to the career changer.
"It is true that the population is aging and that there will be more opportunities in the health care field," says Alan Gorr, Dean of the College of Education and Health Services at Benedictine University. "Even today some of the health professions, such as nursing, and physicians assistants have large numbers who began in other fields."
There are many areas of health one can prepare for, including nursing, and within nursing there are even more choices of degrees and career tracks. The University of St. Francis' Leach College of Nursing offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing — which includes Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Nursing Administration and Nursing Education — as well as Doctor of Nursing Practice.
"Nursing is an excellent career because of the variety of options available and the internal rewards that it gives," says Carol Wilson, Dean, University of St. Francis. "The population in the U.S. is aging and more nurses will be needed to address their unique needs."
USF also offers degrees in Radiation Therapy, Nuclear Medicine Technology and Radiography.
Benedictine offers the Bachelor of Science in Nursing for students who have a community college degree in nursing and an RN, says Gorr. "We offer a master's degree in nursing (MSN) online. The students in these programs likely are working nurses and the added credentials will allow them to progress up the professional ladder. They are very much in demand."
The school also offers degrees in nutrition and wellness and a Master of Public Health (MPH).
Achieving a goal
Lupe Corona, 48, began a career in the health field after she graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana with a psychology degree and minors in biology and chemistry. From the late '80s to the mid '90s she worked in a health lab.
After some twists and turns in her personal life, including marriage, becoming a mother and later going through a divorce, she left the health field to take a job as a preschool teacher's aide.
"I needed to find a job that would accommodate my needs as a single mom," she says. "My son was only in half day kindergarten and I needed a flexible schedule."
Corona always knew she wanted to go back to school for a master's degree but wasn't sure in what area. "I happened to be at Benedictine for a class for my oldest daughter when I read a pamphlet that described the MPH program," she says. "That was exactly what I wanted to do so I called them and made an appointment that week."
Corona expects to have her degree in May of 2013. She continues to work in early childhood education at School Readiness in Naperville, as well as attend classes at Benedictine part-time, in addition to being available for her elderly father and three children.
"It was more difficult to find time when my children were younger but now they are a lot more self-sufficient," she says. "I believe that people make time for what they really want. And I hope to be an inspiration to my kids. They are watching me achieve a goal no matter what else is going on in life."
Keep in mind
Gorr says that while demand is high in the field and will only increase, at the same time, the standards in these fields are rising as well as is the competition to get into it. "So committing to health care is not an inexpensive decision or one to be taken lightly," he advises. "And, contrary to what one hears, there is no guarantee of getting a dream job. Some jobs are in places that are not attractive and with wages that are not what one expects."
Wilson, too, suggests doing some research before taking on a career change.
"Talk with nurses and other health care providers in the areas you are interested in to see if it's a good fit for you," she says.
Wilson points out that BSN prepared nurses can work in hospitals, community health, ambulatory care (physician's and nurse practitioner's offices), long term care facilities, school nursing, hospice, wound care, camp/cruise/resort nursing, travel nursing, research, "and a host of other opportunities, " she says.
USF accepts all equivalent pre-requisite and general education courses taken at accredited colleges and universities. "If a transfer student has already completed those required courses, the nursing curriculum is a 2 ½ year program for transfer students," she adds.
Wilson "absolutely" thinks health, in particular, is a good field for a career changer.
"Health is an exciting field right now as the nation is shifting its focus from tertiary care to primary care," she says. "Every health career is looking at prevention of illness and promotion of health as essential."
Gorr says the Master of Public Health has a good job outlook. "This is for people who want to work in health departments and in various areas of prevention," he says. "Positions may be found in government, business, non-governmental agencies, and the voluntary sector."
For the career changer, the entrance requirements include a bachelor's degree in a subject that can be applied to public health. "This may include science, social science, or business," he says. "The job picture has been very favorable as the MPH is a generalist degree that finds new applications as society changes."
Corona says the program at Benedictine has provided many opportunities for her to experience and learn about the others area of interest in public health.
"I would love to work in developing programs for teaching teen's health education or working with the elderly," she says. "Although lately I have taken an interest in disaster preparedness and I will work toward getting a certificate in that specialty."
The most important thing Corona would like to say to other career changers is that "it's never too late. I was in my early 40s when I decided that I wanted something else to do with my life. Although going back to school as a single mom with young children and working was often times difficult, it's been worth it. I feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment after every class. And the more I learn about my new career the more I know I'm doing the right thing."
Also important, she says, is finding a school where the staff is knowledgeable, and have worked or are working in the field and who will be willing to help you if you run into any difficulties or problems."This is very important as a person with a job, children and other responsibilities well knows," she says.