Health Care Careers That Help People with Diabetes
by Julie Sweet
Finding a meaningful career — one that inspires you day in and day out — can be a challenge. Many people are motivated by their personal experiences to follow a specific career path, especially in the field of health care. People living with diabetes, or who have a loved one with diabetes, have many options if they would like to give back to the greater diabetes community through their work. When people are inspired by their own personal experience with a health issue, they can impart deep understanding combined with the technical know-how to create better health care options for others.
This post examines three diverse careers that can help people with diabetes, including a biostatistician, diabetes nurse practitioner and community prevention specialist. Here’s a look at how each career path can affect the diabetes community and how to attain the education and training needed to be successful in these roles.
The field of biostatistics offers endlessly fascinating careers for people who like to solve mysteries and math problems and would like to affect health at the population level. A public health biostatistician spends their days devising studies and decoding how risk factors affect diseases and behaviors. They work in teams with other scientists such as physicians, epidemiologists and public health specialists.
While conducting diabetes research, biostatisticians can search for answers to a variety of critical questions — such as which populations are most affected by diabetes and why. Biostatisticians also compare treatments to evaluate their effectiveness or to figure out what parts of a treatment can be improved. They can also work on studies that find links between diabetes and other diseases such as depression.
Scientific research relies heavily on biostatisticians to prove associations between various theories and study results. Biostatisticians are absolutely integral to the development of groundbreaking topics, research and treatment approaches. In order to work as a biostatistician, you will need at least a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Biostatistics. Many biostatisticians eventually seek out even more advanced degrees.
While biostatisticians working on diabetes topics rarely see the people they affect — they can take great pride in seeing their work translate into real-world approaches to diabetic care.
Diabetic Nurse Practitioner
If you are more interested in a career where you have day-to-day interactions with patients, there is not a more hands-on career than the field of diabetic nurse practitioners.
Many diabetes educators and case workers are nurses, but diabetic nurse practitioners have the advantage of being able to diagnose and prescribe medical management of both acute and chronic diabetes in a primary care setting. Since diabetic nurse practitioners see only diabetic patients, they have the deep technical knowledge to diagnose and treat patients, as well as the bedside manner and ancillary knowledge about issues associated with diabetes that will make patients more comfortable.
Diabetic nurse practitioners must have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). This educational background prepares them to adjust diabetes medications, order diagnostic testing and refer patients for consultations — much like a medical doctor (MD). Unlike an MD, however, nurse practitioners typically spend more time with patients and often take on a care coordination role — something that has been shown to aid in the management of diabetes as well as the impact of diabetes on loved ones. Another advantage a diabetic nurse practitioner has over traditional nursing care is their ability to order tests and set up treatment programs and resources without the approval of a doctor, so patents spend less time and effort dealing with delays in treatment.
For those interested in tackling big-picture issues, working in community-based prevention could be a great career path. Community health workers are dedicated to working on the front lines in the fight for healthier communities. While they may work with individuals, their goal is to effect change on a larger, community level. These specialists work with policy makers, community leaders, existing health services and the community itself to develop and improve services.
You have probably seen the work of community health workers in the forms of health campaigns in schools, on public transportation, on television, or the radio. These campaigns are designed with a specific community in mind to influence individuals to make positive health decisions. Leaders in this field typically have a Master of Public Health, which teaches them the skills to address social, cultural, economic and environment factors in health.
Assessing Which Career Is Right for You
Are you an analytical person who likes to work with numbers? Or are you more interested in the medical side and working with patients one on one? Maybe you are more interested in working with groups and community building. To find out whether one of these careers may be right for you, consider volunteering at an organization, or talking to someone who has experience in the field. Take some time to research different healthcare careers and think about how your skill sets and interests may correlate to a specific career path. The good news is that even if you don’t wish to become a medical doctor, there are still a wide variety of important roles you can fill to help people with diabetes.