Patient care is the work of ensuring the physical and mental well-being of patients during the treatment and management of illness by healthcare professionals. While it might sound like all healthcare falls under this definition, patient care training develops a slightly different skill set than doctors or other healthcare providers. It requires more emphasis on empathy and emotional skills alongside medical know-how to ease the suffering of individuals while long-term treatment is administered.
An article from the American Medical Association puts it well: effective patient care means going beyond asking “what’s the matter?” to ask instead “what matters to you?” A patient care professional creates a dialogue around that question and collaboratively designs personalized care plans that address each patient’s specific needs.
Providing patient care that reflects individual patient needs and values can enhance the effectiveness of overall healthcare provision, as it helps patients feel respected and thus more engaged with their treatment. And, by reducing the stress that can often accompany ongoing stays in hospitals or other institutional settings, patient care technicians and other professionals in this field play a critical role in facilitating the healing work of doctors and patients alike under challenging circumstances.
Patient care is particularly important for people suffering from chronic diseases, terminal illnesses like cancer, or similar long-term conditions. Personalized patient care can help significantly improve the quality of life for people suffering from these conditions. It is also important for elderly persons who are not suffering from specific illnesses but require help to take care of their daily needs, and may lack nearby family members capable of providing assistance as well as human connection.
Patient care means being on the front lines of healthcare delivery, working directly with patients facing difficult circumstances, and helping them meet these challenges head-on. In contrast to healthcare administrators or other behind-the-scenes healthcare professionals, or even other healthcare providers that deal directly with patients such as doctors or EMTs, patient care technicians must have extraordinary communication skills to discover and respond to a patient’s emotional and physical needs.
If you have these skills, a career in patient care can be incredibly rewarding. And, as with the rest of the healthcare industry, virtually all of these careers are in high demand.
Nurses are perhaps the most well-known patient care professionals, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nursing employment will rise by 12% from 2018 to 2028 - much faster than the average of the rest of the economy. Physical therapists are another familiar example of patient care professionals. They work with injured or ill patients to help them regain or improve their range of movement or manage pain. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that this will be a fast-growing field, with an increase of 22% in physical therapy jobs projected from 2018 to 2028.
As the population in the U.S. and other countries ages, there is also fast-increasing demand for home health and personal care aides. These jobs require working with a wide range of patients, including the elderly, disabled, chronically ill, and cognitively impaired. These jobs only require a high school diploma or equivalent, but people in this field must have a high level of emotional intelligence and patience to be successful. This is also an extraordinarily fast-growing field, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 36% increase in jobs from 2018 to 2028--one of the highest rates of increase of any field over this period.
Absolutely! Even though patient care is an intrinsically people-focused career path, today’s online education platforms can equip you with the required medical knowledge and the one-on-one interactions with teachers and classmates that build essential interpersonal skills. Thanks to virtual classrooms, live office hours with teachers, and collaborative projects with fellow learners from around the world, you no longer need to pay on-campus prices and follow an on-campus schedule to get a top-quality education in patient care from anywhere in the world.
Coursera offers a number of courses relevant to patient care from highly-ranked universities, including subjects like patient safety, early childhood education, and addiction treatment. Specializations covering multiple courses in this area are also available, including Newborn Baby Care as well as Palliative Care from the University of Colorado.
Many patient care courses are designed for people already working in the health care field. With that in mind, aim to learn about evidence-based practices, symptom management, and integrative health care techniques beforehand. Some patient care courses recommend that learners take a beginner-level course before jumping in to an intermediate or advanced course.
A health care professional who is a good listener and empathetic towards all patients is best suited for patient care roles. Patient care is about finding the root cause of a problem and doing everything in your power to make the patient feel comfortable and ease any physical, mental, or emotional suffering they may be going through. Health care workers interested in roles in patient care should enjoy talking to patients and communicating their needs to their health care teams and coordinators. Patient care experts need to demonstrate patience and compassion with all patients but especially the most vulnerable, including children, adolescents, and the elderly.
Health care professionals interested in long-term care for those living with a painful, chronic illness or life-limiting illness may consider studying topics like palliative care and its role inside and outside of hospice settings. Many patient care topics center around understanding dementia. These topics explore patient care, caregiver resources, and how societies can better care for the elderly. Patient care topics surrounding school children and adolescents may focus on the autism spectrum, nutrition, mental health services, and physical activities. Topics in addiction can help health care workers care for patients in a clinical setting by explaining the causes, treatments, and prevention of addiction. For patient care experts interested in alternative medicine, topics that analyze the role of herbal medicine in traditional clinical settings can give health care workers the background and tools to incorporate these techniques into their work today. Transgender care explores the ways patient care experts can care for patients as they explore medical and surgical treatments.
Places that hire people with a background in patient care include nursing homes and long-term care facilities that need patient care experts to advocate for residents and act as a liaisons between doctors, caregivers, and the patients themselves. Patient care counselors who specialize in the care of HIV and AIDS patients may work to help those living with the disease to receive the best medical care available. Patient care experts with an interest in emergency medicine can earn an EMT certification, which may help you on the road to becoming a licensed EMT in your state and working at local facilities.