DEAR JOYCE: I am in my mid 30s and have recently moved to this city from a small town. I see many ads for people to work in hospitals here, but before I look into training as a nurse, I would like to know what other kinds of health-type jobs I might consider. Ideas? -- S.M.
Just as there is more than one way to skin a knee, there are "200 Ways to Put Your Talent to Work in the Health Field," which is the title of an extremely useful booklet you can send for. Health is one of the largest industries in our country, employing some 8.7 million workers. Doctors and nurses make up less than one-fourth of this work force -- you'll be surprised at the rich variety of occupations to choose from.
Only about half of health jobs are in hospitals. Other possible work sites include accounting firms, ambulatory surgical centers, advertising agencies, doctors' offices, extended-care facilities, educational programs, government health and welfare departments, group practice plans, health insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, hospital facility planning agencies, health planning agencies, and health and hospital associations.
More health jobs are found in law firms, libraries, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, pharmaceutical firms, professional health associations, psychiatric institutions, publishing houses, rehabilitation centers and research institutions.
The way to test your interest in health careers is to talk to health professionals, students in training and admissions counselors in health programs; read more about health careers in general; visit health occupations programs and health facilities during "open house" days; volunteer in a health facility by contacting the facility's director of volunteers.
OK? Now get started on the reading by sending for the "200 Ways" booklet. A single copy of the booklet is free but you must enclose a long white self-addressed envelope stamped with 25 cents postage. Write to the National Health Council, Suite 1118, 350 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10118.
Dear Joyce: I am a 42-year-old male who has decided to pursue a lifelong dream to be a nurse. After the loss this year in a tragic automobile accident of my spouse of 18 years and our three young children, I am trying to piece my life together.
My background is banking and personnel recruitment and I have, in fact, taken a hospital recruiting job in California that starts within a month. My question is whether government programs are available that offer some financial student aid. I would like to begin by devoting full time to getting my BSN (bachelor of science in nursing).
All I need is some assistance to get me started and then I can do some part-time work. One problem and very important: Without a full-time job, I will have no health insurance. Is there a program where I can be covered? I've seen what illness can cost and realize it is imperative to have coverage. -- D.I.
Yours is a popular question to this column: "I want to give nursing care to others but I need help paying for my training." First, remember there are three basic ways to become a #F registered nurse: a two-year community college associate degree program, a three-year hospital diploma program and a four-year baccalaureate degree program.
Some students take the two-year program and later apply the 60 credits to a four-year program. Some three-year graduates also go back for a bachelor's degree. If you choose the career ladder approach, before enrolling in your first program, be certain its credits will articulate (transfer) to a bachelor's degree program when you're ready to do so.
Don't stop with the federal government when looking for loans and scholarships, but look also at local loan options, says Daniel O'Neal of the American Nurses Association. O'Neal himself is a nurse and has taught at the baccalaureate and master's levels.
Federal loans typically have a payback requirement, according to O'Neal, but most have a generous "forgiveness" feature of up to 100 percent when you agree to work in public hospitals or underserved areas of the country. On the other hand, if your support is from a local hospital or other agency, you usually are obligated to work in the local area for a specific period of time to pay for your training.
As for health insurance, colleges and universities nearly always offer student insurance programs. Hospital and other health agencies as employers offer to students in nursing programs a schedule of work hours (as a nursing assistant, for example) that not only allows you to go to school, but also provides enough job hours to qualify for employer-paid health insurance.
The first stop on your student aid quest should be the financial aid director at the college or hospital where you plan to train. Check too with state nurses associations. For a state association referral, call the American Nurses Association in Kansas City, (816) 474-5720. ANA also offers the free publication, "Pathways to the Future."