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Nursing student doesn’t want to deal with patients
I am finishing up my first year in a nursing degree program. Although I am still very interested in health care, I feel apprehensive about nursing because of the amount of patient care involved. The truth is I would rather sit in front of a computer than have to deal with a patient. But there are so many jobs out there for nurses. Do you think I should stick it out and try to work on my people skills, or do you any other career suggestions?
It’s great that you are questioning your career choice so early in the game. If you continue on in nursing it is possible that you could find a niche position that doesn’t require patient contact, maybe as a legal or medical consultant, as pointed out in this About.com article. Research nursing might also be an option, but for that you need to do postgraduate work.
I really would encourage you to explore other non-nursing careers. One field that particularly comes to mind is that of health information management (sometimes known as health informatics). This occupation is and although the jobs often take place in medical settings you can be guaranteed that much of your day will take place in front of a computer screen. The 2009 national study Health Informatics and Health Information Management, which warns of a serious labour shortage in the health information area, estimates growth of between 7.6 and 26.1 per cent between 2009 and 2014. As well, in the United States, opportunities for medical records and health information technicians are expected to increase by 20 per cent through to 2018. In fact, U.S.News & World Report sees health information management as one of the nine hottest fields that students can study.
Essentially, health information managers collect, record, review and manage health information that is used by doctors as well as by health care and government agencies for decision making, financial planning and reimbursement. Public health officials also use this information to indicate disease patterns and trends. According to Alberta Occupational Profiles, the work entails:
- Translating information from paper documents to electronic records
- Converting a patient's diagnostic and intervention information to a standardized format using an international classification system
- Collecting additional information about patients and their hospital stays to generate data about the patient population
- Using computer applications to organize, compile, sort, group and analyze health data for planning, research and education
This field might be a good fit if you enjoy taking a methodical approach to compiling and classifying information and like responding to requests for information, says the above profile.
Conestoga College’s Why Pursue a Career in Health Informatics? page points out that health information professionals apply information technology “to a domain of unequaled complexity. Healthcare is a very complex work environment where difficult decisions are commonplace and the potential for decision errors is high.” Needless to say, this is a field where accuracy and attention to detail is highly valued.
In Toronto, George Brown offers a two-year Health Information Management Diploma Program, while Ryerson delivers a degree program primarily targeted to those who already have a diploma in the field. This university also has a Certificate in Health Informatics, but it’s designed for professionals with some experience in either health or IT.
If this health information professional career appeals to you consider doing information interviews with people working in the field to get a sense if it would be a good fit for you. (Perhaps a teacher at your nursing school would know a health information professional, or you could try contacting the Canadian Health Information Management Association for leads.)
Keep in mind that there might be another occupation (perhaps even one outside of health care) that would be an even better fit. Take the time to do some serious career exploration. You can do the research on your own (for some ideas on where to start, check out our Honing in on Career and Labour Info article) or get some help from a career counsellor at one of the many free Employment Ontario agencies in the city.) Finally, I want to stress that it’s never a good idea to force yourself to stay on a career path you are unsuited for no matter how good the opportunities are.
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