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Promoting Wellness, Preventing Disease: Are These Your Goals?

By Experience

You don't need an advanced degree to begin a career in healthcare -- and you don't have to work directly with patients to feel like you're making a difference.

Every health care organization has at its core people who are interested in promoting wellness and preventing disease. Are you a hands-on worker who learns quickly? Do the worlds of science and human relations fascinate you? If you enjoy getting the details right, working with a variety of information, and being in an environment where people are the main concern, consider health care. The timing is certainly right. Employment in the health care industry will continue to increase, according to estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What you know about health care might be pretty much confined to sitting in a waiting room anticipating your annual physical. But this office visit is only one small part of a complex series of interactions between you, the doctor, and more than a dozen other health care professionals you'll probably never see.

How you got to that office visit has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years. Up until the early 1970s, health care in the United States depended on a "fee-for-service" system: You visited a physician's office, were treated, and paid the bill. The same was true for hospital expenses. In the early '70s, the rise of managed care plans to cover "medically necessary and appropriate care," changed the way we get and pay for health care. Now, employers and employees share the expense of health care, and a focus is put on preventing illness and staying healthy. Managed care, however, is not without its share of critics-including doctors who lament the notorious paperwork and smaller salaries and patients who bristle at the lack of choices. The rising cost of health care is forcing some employers to look at alternative health plans; many patients, meanwhile, are taking health matters into their own hands with alternative forms of medicine.

Despite the diverse array of paths in this field, the health care system consists of the following five areas:

Hospital or clinic administration

Administration is the behind-the-scenes "care" in healthcare. Administrators provide the resources, procedures, and scheduling that enable service providers to carry out the business of caring for patients.

Care Administration 

Within a hospital or clinic, medical directors are usually physicians who have become executives. They monitor the delivery of health care services, including treatment time, emergency care, and nursing support.

Direct care

Direct care involves several components. It can teach others how to best care for themselves through proper diet, exercise, and attention to emotional health, and it can also mean administering medication, treatment, or performing surgery. There are several components to direct care: Medicine, Allied Health, Mental Health, Social Services.


Characters like Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, and the Bionic Man fascinate the public with their portrayals of scientific discovery. While rarely as dramatic as Dr. Frankenstein's experiments, research conducted through observation and innovation is the foundation of medical progress. There are three subcategories of research in health care: basic, clinical, and epidemiological.

Supporting services

A person with a bunion on her toe can't just walk into an operating room and offer the surgeon $50 to remove it. In order for a surgical procedure to take place, the patient must navigate a path through the health care infrastructure. Three of the support services that contribute to patients' interactions with the system: Health insurance, Public Health, Information Systems.

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