How to Become a Patient Educator – Overview
Patient educators are specially trained healthcare professionals. They work with patients and help them to understand their medical condition and the proposed treatment plan.
These professionals are also responsible for assisting patients to learn how to manage symptoms and live an active life, despite their disease.
Patient educators also work with members of a medical team, such as physicians, nurses and surgeons.
These professionals have a distinct role in the medical team as they are more involved in helping patients cope with their condition.
How to Become a Patient Educator? | Educational Requirements
To become a certified patient educator, you will need to acquire the following educational qualifications:
The minimum education requirement to be a patient educator includes having a high school diploma or a GED.
Still, most employers give priority to candidates with a bachelor’s degree in health care, education or a relevant field. Some employers may even require a higher degree, such as a master’s in health care or education.
Training & Experience
Patient educators get their training through educational programs and on-the-job training.
While enrolled in an education program, you should learn as much as you can about the medical field, patient care, patient rights, and medical ethics.
You should also learn the role that a patient educator plays in a patient’s life, apart from being able to effectively educate the patient and their families.
During your on-the-job training, you should learn about hospitals or the clinic’s procedures and policies.
You should also learn more about the different departments within a health care organization, along with the specific roles of other members.
Certification & License
Patient educators should acquire certifications to showcase their expertise in the patient care and education field. Some employers may give priority to candidates with a certification in the patient education field.
Job Responsibilities of a Patient Educator
As a patient educator, you should be prepared to handle a vast range of responsibilities, including:
- Being able to explain the proposed treatment plan, including the type of treatment and the frequency of appointments needed to handle the treatment
- Providing support and guidance to patients relating to the treatment plan, which includes answering questions, resolving queries and dispelling doubts about the treatment procedure
- Handling one-on-one sessions with patients to educate them about their medical condition, the treatment plan and the after-care instructions
- Coordinating and supervising educational programs for groups of patients who are going through similar treatment plans
- Helping patients with appointment scheduling and follow-up care after a surgery or other treatment procedures
- Creating and delivering educational programs on various relevant topics, such as exercise, nutrition, medication use, stress management and disease prevention among others
- Creating and collecting educational materials, such as brochures, pamphlets and flyers to help patients understand their condition and treatment plan in the best possible way
- Organizing community-level events that motivate attendees to healthy living practices and disease prevention
Patient Educator Salary and Career Scope
The specific salary for patient educators depends on several factors, such as level of education, years of experience and the kind of organization they are employed by.
On average, the annual salary for certified patient educators in the US is around US$ 52,500 per year, which is around US$ 25.2 per hour.
The career scope for patient educators is promising, as experts expect the demand for patient educators to grow significantly over the next ten years. As the large baby-boomer population ages and life-spans increases, the demand for patient educators is expected to rise proportionately.
Skills necessary for a Patient Educator
Apart from the educational requirements, certifications and license, you will also need the following skills to become a successful patient educator:
Communication skills are the most important personal aspect for any aspiring patient educator. Being able to effectively communicate with patients and medical staff is a must.
You may need to give presentations to patients regarding their medical condition, treatment options and other health information.
You may also need to answer patient queries and provide them with the information they need.
Empathy is another important skill to have as a patient educator. This is necessary to understand the patient’s feelings and see things from their perspective.
As a patient educator, you will be working with patients who are suffering from a severe medical condition for the first time.
Being able to empathize with their situation is highly essential to make the patient feel more confident and comfortable with the proposed treatment plan.
As a patient educator, you will often have to explain medical procedures and treatments to patients.
You should be able to use your knowledge of the medical field to teach patients about their specific conditions and give tips on managing them.
Patient educators work in different types of settings. You may find employment as a patient educator at a hospital, clinic, community health center, or private practice.
You can even find work in non-medical organizations, such as insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.