Careers in the health care industry are among the fastest growing in the country. It's easy to see why. Our aging population is demanding ever more from the health care infrastructure, and we need to keep that infrastructure strong.
Among the top 20 fastest growing careers in the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, are nurse practitioners, medical and health services managers, physician assistants and physical therapy assistants.
In addition, more and more hospital-based nurses and other clinicians are ready to abandon their stressful jobs but not ready to leave health care behind.
Given the upheaval the pandemic has caused in health care, I've met a lot of nurses who are ready to strike out on their own as entrepreneurs. In fact, entrepreneurial opportunities abound in health care -- and you don't have to spend eight or 12 years in medical school to take advantage of them.
If you're someone who wants to help Boost health care and is ready for new challenges, whether or not you have a medical background, here are some potential ideas:
Private patient advocate
Obviously, this one is close to my heart. There are opportunities for patient advocates within health care organizations and as independent advocates. Independent patient advocates charge between $100 to $300 per hour and are paid by the patient. Patient advocates come from the medical field, but many join the profession after a personal experience -- an unpleasant hospital stay, a medical error or frustration with a provider.
How to get started: While there are no agreed-upon qualifications nationally, there are college courses, programs and workshops. I recommend taking a good course and becoming credentialed as a Board Certified Patient Advocate (BCPA).
I think some of the best patient advocates come from nursing because they already have in-depth medical and hospital experience, but they need help starting a business. My next Nurse Advocate Entrepreneur course starts Nov. 9; for information, visit nurseadvocateentrepreneur.com.
Medical transcriptionists listen to recordings made by health care professionals, such as doctors, and transcribe them into medical correspondence and reports. Busy hospitals and medical practices outsource work to freelance medical transcriptionists to handle overflow work.
How to get started: The basic requirement is an associate degree or certificate from an accredited medical transcription program. Several colleges in the Chicago area offer such programs; for example, Elgin Community College offers a self-paced, one-year online program that prepares you to go take the AHDI Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) national certification exam.
Medical billing and coding
This is one of the fastest growing fields in the allied health professions. The medical billing industry is extremely competitive. However, for the determined entrepreneur, there is still a good opportunity to earn $40,000 per year or more operating a home-based medical billing service. There are also employment opportunities.
How to get started: An associate degree or certification from a training program is required, and there's the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) certification exam. There's a lot to learn: diagnostic codes, medical terminology and health IT systems.
Share your own healthy lifestyle practices. A health and wellness coach is a supportive guide who helps clients set health goals such as weight loss, improved energy levels and stress management. Health and wellness coaching is becoming popular. Therefore, if you consider yourself an expert in health and wellness, starting a coaching business can be a great business venture.
How to Get started: As in most health-related professions, certifications are required. You can find programs in nutrition, personal training and other fields at local community colleges.
As I have learned, growing a new business takes time, energy and money, so you can't expect overnight success in any of these fields. But opportunities abound, whether you are coming from a medical background or just have a passion for helping people.
Our health care system needs you!
• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for 30+ years, she is founder of NShore Patient Advocates (www.NorthShoreRN.com). She is offering a free phone consultation to Daily Herald readers; call her at (847) 612-6684.