The soaring demand for skilled workers, though, will make the effort worth your while. Ideally you can plan ahead and add the necessary courses before you retire to smooth the move.
For retiree Denise Teifel, working part time as a paramedical examiner is the perfect financial safety net in her new stage of life. The bulk of her work for ExamOne, a subsidiary of Quest Diagnostics, is conducting medical exams to screen individuals for life insurance policies.
Her working hours are usually spent on the road, making house calls on applicants. She’s fine with that — it’s flexible work, and the pay amply cushions her retirement lifestyle.
The tools of her trade: a suitcase on wheels packed with a scale, tape measure, blood pressure cuff and sealed lab kits stocked with sterile syringes, and vials.
Her basic duties include drawing blood and obtaining urine specimens, then sending them off to the appointed lab for testing. She takes weight and height measurements and records medical histories. Depending on the age of the applicant, she may be asked to run a battery of mental and physical tests. In addition, she draws blood samples for cholesterol screens at health fairs for corporations such as Home Depot and Safeway, or she conducts random employee drug tests for corporate clients.
Six years ago, Teifel, 56, an accountant by training, retired from her post as an executive assistant for the El Dorado County Department of Veterans Affairs in Placerville, Calif. Stress was the impetus for her early exit. Juggling accounts payable and receivable, budgeting and hiring, were getting to her. Combine that with a serious health scare, thyroid cancer, and she decided to pump the brakes.
Her husband, a manager for an environmental oil and gas company, was on board with the decision. Seeking a slower pace of life, the couple moved to Albany, Ore., nestled in the bucolic Willamette Valley.
“I hadn’t planned to work when we moved up here,” Teifel says. The couple had adequate retirement savings and used the proceeds from the sale of their California abode to buy their dream home with mostly cash.
But for Teifel, not bringing home a paycheck was hard to adjust to from the get-go. “I had worked so many years bringing in money that I couldn’t justify spending to even get a massage — the extras. That’s when I started thinking about what am I going to do.”
Her two daughters, both working in the medical field, knew she could find a job in their world. “I was too old to go back to school to get my RN,” she surmises, but they told her about the demand for phlebotomists, who make a living drawing blood. “At first, I thought, oh man, that’s gruesome,” she recalls.
In truth, Teifel was pretty familiar with blood work because of her thyroid condition. “As a cancer survivor, I get my blood drawn all the time,” she says. “I wanted to be a better phlebotomist than some of those I had come up against.”
She enrolled in a phlebotomy certification program at an Oregon vocational school. It offered an intense course load — anatomy, physiology and medical terminology — plus she learned her way around tricky veins. The price was right — around $1,600 for a six-week course, followed by an 8-week internship at a local clinic.
After attaining her certificate, she signed on as a contractor for the paramedical company, which supplied additional training. Continuing education is required to keep her skills current.
Appointments range from a snappy 15 minutes for a basic exam to over an hour when additional services are requested. She can earn anywhere from $300 to more than $1,000 every two weeks, depending on the number of assignments she accepts. She’s paid by the job performed, not the hour.
A basic exam brings in around $20, plus she’s reimbursed for mileage costs over 40 miles round-trip. A full exam pays $35 to $40 an hour. Some weeks she may work six hours, not including drive time; others she’ll rack up nearly 20. Flexibility is the name of the game. “I get new orders daily and can choose where I want to go,” Teifel says.
It’s not a job for introverts. The first thing Teifel does when she gets out of the car is look at what someone has in their yard, or in their house, to get a sense of their interests. That way she can strike up a conversation to put him or her at ease before she opens her kit.
“You have no idea how many folks have white coat syndrome, or are just deathly afraid of needles,” Teifel says. “I’ve had grown men start bawling like a baby when I try to stick them with a needle to draw blood. I say, ‘OK, put your big boy panties on,'” she chuckles. “I meet quirky people. A lot of friends have told me I should write a book: My Adventures in Examland.”
You’ll find useful details about healthcare jobs in the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook and the American Medical Association’s annual Health Professions Career and Education Directory.
Here are five great health care jobs to consider. Pay ranges, which will vary based on factors such as experience and geography, are primarily derived from U.S. Department of Labor data.
1. Paramedical Examiner:
The nitty-gritty: Don the scrubs, grab the medical kit and prepare for soothing nervous people. You’re generally hired as a contractor to perform routine medical tests that screen individuals applying for life insurance coverage. Most insurance companies require applicants over 40 to have a medical exam before they will approve a policy. Depending on the amount of life insurance someone is buying and his or her age, these exams include taking someone’s medical history, weight and height, drawing blood, taking blood pressure, a urine specimen, and perhaps an EKG performed at someone’s home or office. In addition to house calls, you might be hired to perform random drug testing on employees or handle cholesterol screenings at health and wellness fairs by corporate clients. You’re not expected to be Marcus Welby M.D., but it can take some smooth talking to relax the blood and needle phobic. Make sure you have an up-to-date GPS.
The hours: Flexible. You schedule your own appointments. Expect evenings and weekends.
Median pay range: Contractors typically are paid by the job versus the hour and pay varies by experience and contracting firm. In general, a basic insurance medical exam pays around $20 to $25 per case. Additional tests may pay around $40 each. Firms typically cover transportation costs above a set mileage limit. You can work for more than one contractor. Median hourly wages for phlebotomists in other health settings: $12.50 to $13.
Qualifications: The minimum educational requirement is a phlebotomist certification, which includes practical experience drawing, collecting and storing blood and a thorough knowledge of vein location and puncture points. Courses are offered through vocational and technical schools, as well as community colleges. Look for a training program that is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. Coursework covers human physiology and anatomy. EKG certification is strongly suggested. Paramedical examiners may also have prior training as a nurse or licensed practical nurse. Not all states require phlebotomists to be certified, but there are entry-level certifications. A Certified Phlebotomy Technician, for example, is awarded by the American Society of Clinical Pathology and the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians. You’ll need a valid driver’s license. Background checks are standard. A prerequisite: a minimum number of draws ranging from 100 to 300 and up. An array of job listings can be found at GetPhlebotomyjobs.com. Practice good bedside manners.
2. School Nurse
The nitty-gritty: Got your first-aid kit ready? For registered nurses stepping away from a full-time nursing career, part-time or seasonal nursing assignments are a schoolyard away. In fact, there’s a shortage of nurses in public schools around the country, according to the National Association of School Nurses. The job: administering basic first-aid for kids from elementary to college-age who are injured or become ill during school hours. These “need to see a nurse” traumas can run the gamut from headaches to cleaning and dressing cuts and scrapes and to administering medicine for stomach aches. The aim is to quickly and calmly treat and/or send them home to a parent or primary care physician for continued care. Other duties include meting out a student’s medication per written physician’s orders for daily prescriptions for such ongoing illnesses as attention deficit disorder, chronic asthma or diabetes. Nurses can also conduct basic vision and hearing tests and teach classes in nutrition and first aid.
The hours: Flexible from nine months/full time to 20 hours a week/part time, some summer school stints. Job-sharing is possible.
Median pay range: Salaries for school nurses vary greatly across the country ranging from $12.23 to $37.98 per hour, according to PayScale.com. Some schools and universities offer insurance and vacation benefits.
Qualifications: A valid state registered nurse license is generally a requirement. Each state has different rules for school nurses. You’ll need to check with your state nursing board. All states, however, require the National Council Licensure Examination to become a registered nurse. Nurse’s aides may be considered in some situations. Extra points: If you’ve worked shifts in emergency care, or in pediatrics for an elementary school post, that’s a plus. Clearances will include criminal and other background checks. You’ll also need a current certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid from a recognized provider such as the American Heart Association. You might bolster your qualifications by earning a professional school nurse certification. Contact theNational Board for Certification of School Nurses for more information. Finally, add one dosage of psychology 101 — a worried parent may need as much TLC as a sick child. Hidden job description: Must be kid- and parent-friendly.
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3. Medical Records Administrator
The nitty-gritty: Techies with a medical bent, log on. As hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and old-fashioned doctor’s offices say sayonara to mounds of paperwork and rows of file drawers in favor of electronic health records, there’s a soaring demand to hire workers at ease with computer-ese. The work entails transferring records of physician notes from patient visits, medical or surgical procedures, medical history, test results and more into computerized files. For the most part, this is a stationary desk job, so there’s not a lot of running around, standing on your feet or last-minute emergencies. A hot specialty: Coding. Medical coders convert the doctor’s report of a disease or injury and any procedures performed into numeric and alphanumeric designations, or codes, to create a claim for insurance reimbursement. It can be tedious. If you miscode, either the patient or the doctor may be under-reimbursed by an insurer. The devil is in the details.
The hours: Varies by medical facility.
Median pay range: $10.21 to $25.69 per hour.
Qualifications: You’ll typically need an associate’s degree in health information technology from a technical or community college. Online courses are offered, too. Coursework covers medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, health data requirements and standards, clinical classification and coding systems, health care reimbursement methods and database security. Passing a certifying examination is not always required, but employers prefer it. This certification is awarded by the American Health Information Management Association. Visit their website for complete information, including accredited schools and certification details. The American Academy of Professional Coders offers coding credentials. The Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC) andProfessional Association of Health Care Coding Specialists both offer credentialing in specialty coding. The National Cancer Registrars Association, for instance, offers a credential as a Certified Tumor Registrar. To learn more about the credentials available and their specific requirements, contact the credentialing organization. Computer geeks, this code’s for you.
Next: Lend a hand in home health care. >>
4. Personal and Home Health Care Aide
The nitty-gritty: If you’re suited to it, there’s plenty of need for paid workers at private homes, assisted-living communities, memory-care centers for Alzheimer’s patients, hospice facilities and traditional nursing homes. It’s possible to be hired directly by the patient or the patient’s family. Your job is to assist elderly, ill or disabled people with routine activities ranging from bathing and dressing to running errands. Other duties might include light housekeeping, companionship, grocery shopping, meal preparation and medication monitoring. While the work is rewarding, it can be taxing mentally and physically. Some positions require lifting patients and lots of time on your feet. Ask about the requirements of a specific client before signing on.
The hours: If you’re working at someone’s home, three or four hours a day, two or three days a week, might be all they require. These jobs are often booked through a home-care agency. You might opt for a part-time position in an assisted living facility or hospice.
Median pay range: There tends to be a lot of turnover, so job openings are plentiful, especially helping the elderly in-home as well as at assisted-living and hospice facilities. Expect $7.68 per hour to $12.45; $35-plus depending on experience and certification.
Qualifications: Training is generally on the job by registered nurses if you’re working for an agency or in-house facility. You will undergo formal training and pass a competency test to work for certified home health or hospice agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid. Requirements vary from state to state. Some employers may require a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) certification. A criminal background check is standard. CPR training and a driver’s license are helpful too. Contact local care facilities for job openings and training requirements. For overall home care information and a nursing job board, go to the American Association of Home Care. Compassion, self-control and a sense of humor are the nuts and bolts. Your motto: Lend a hand.
5. Medical Assistant
The nitty-gritty: Administrative tasks in doctors’ offices make up the bulk of the workload. Mostly you’re performing routine front-office duties, such as checking in patients, verifying health insurance information, manning the telephones and scheduling appointments. You’re on the frontlines, so rev up the people person persona. You may be in charge of maintaining supplies. Some assistants help physicians with procedures and prepare medical records. If you have the training, you may perform direct patient care such as conducting an EKG, specimen collection, wound care, medication administration and checking vital signs.
The hours: Varies by practitioner, but generally weekdays.
Pay range: $9.98 to $19.21 per hour; $25-plus depending on location and experience.
Qualifications: Many medical assistants are trained on the job, but others complete programs at community colleges. Some programs offer certificates in as little as eight months and teach students to assist physicians in routine duties as well as basic office tasks. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programsor the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools have lists of medical assisting accredited programs on their websites. Some employers permit you to learn on the job, but a certificate of training from a nationally recognized association such as such as the American Association of Medical Assistants and Association of Medical Technologists helps you stand out. You can become certified in a specialty, such as optometry or podiatry. Tip: Bulging bunions shouldn’t make you grimace.
Kerry Hannon is the author of What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.
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