Healthcare educators are a core element of the healthcare industry as a whole: you’ve likely encountered their work many times during your training and your practice.
To become a healthcare educator, there are many steps – however, you’ve likely already taken a few of those steps already, such as completing a relevant degree or gaining a few years of experience.
Whether you’re curious about this area of healthcare practice or you’re considering pursuing this in your own career, use this article to understand more about the role, purpose and practice of healthcare educators in Australia.
What is the role of a healthcare educator?
Healthcare educators provide expert coaching, teaching and suggestions based on their experience and training.
Many healthcare educators have worked as professionals in the healthcare industry previously, as nurses, paramedics, midwives, pharmacists and many other roles.
The scope of practice for healthcare educators is wide: they provide expertise on certain subjects as a result of competency gaps in their audience.
Where do healthcare educators work?
Healthcare educators can work in a variety of environments: most commonly, they work inside the healthcare industry in roles such as directors of education, clinical educators and patient care coordinators.
However, the potential roles available to certified healthcare educators in Australia are spread across a variety of industries. Healthcare educators can work with governments as health program analysts or program directors. They can also work with universities as mental health officers or as clinical research specialists. Some healthcare educators even work with non-health organisations to promote mental and physical health amongst employees with the purpose of creating a healthier environment and reducing the cost of insurance.
What experience do healthcare educators need?
Just like a nurse in Australia, healthcare educators must have a degree in a relevant field. Often, this is something like a Bachelor of Nursing. However, depending on what you want to your area of healthcare expertise to be, you can complete a degree in what would otherwise be viewed as an ‘unrelated’ area: for example, you could complete a Bachelor of Business Management and focus your healthcare educator career on teaching staff leadership skills.
Further in your career you may consider an advanced degree, such as a Masters in Public Health or something similar. If this is something you’re interested in, start a conversation with your employer about whether they would be prepared to allow you time to study and perhaps even sponsor your tuition.
To educate healthcare professionals, you have to understand their area of work. As such, it’s integral that you have at least a few years of experience working in healthcare before you pursue the idea of becoming a healthcare educator.
The age at which you switch from practicing to educating can be in your twenties or your sixties, or, in some cases, you can avoid the switch by doing both.
As an example of both practicing and educating, Ausmed educator and pharmacist Dr Jenny Gowan has been working both as a pharmacist and as a university lecturer, board member, medical writer and consultant for most of her career.
Attain a certification
A relevant certification may be something like a Graduate Certificate of Health Professional Education, which is offered at James Cook University, the Australian Catholic University and the University of Western Australia, as well as others.
This isn’t what would be described as an advanced degree: instead, it’s a certification that directly qualifies you as a trained and reputable educator within the healthcare sector.
What skills do healthcare educators need?
Healthcare educators are not only presenters and teachers: they pursue their own research goals as well.
Whether they’re completing the research as part of a university study or conducting research through pre-existing medical data and literature, research skills – such as the ability to manually crawl databases, catalogue evidence and draw evidence-based conclusions – are essential.
A lot of educating will be presenting: this is communicating in a mostly one-way scenario, such as a class or a lecture. This requires both verbal communication – for presenting – and written communication – for your teaching materials, such as lectures, slides, notes, exercises and summaries.
However, becoming a great healthcare educator is also reliant upon your interpersonal communication skills. You need to be able to field questions and provide clarity when required.
Networking is a lot easier said than done, and has a lot to do with the confidence you exhibit regarding your professional skills.
A great way to get the ball rolling here is to create a LinkedIn profile once you’re a certified educator, or alter your current profile to promote your new ambitions as a healthcare educator.
Connect with other educators, and join groups and communities online. Doing these things online is a great way to gain confidence in yourself and your practice before pursuing similar things in person, such as conferences, panels, communities and connections.
For more information and guidance regarding networking in healthcare, read this article published on The Handover: Three Types of Networking for Healthcare Professionals | Ausmed.
To be a great teacher, you need to invest in your own education.
Aside from completing an advanced degree or a certification, you can attend lectures, panels, and events.
Be proactive in your assessment of the presenters: don’t just listen to the content of their presentations. Make notes about what you think is working and what you think isn’t, and think about how you would have done some part of the education experience differently were you the one in charge.
How do you become an Ausmed educator?
Ausmed educators are experts in their field who are excited to create high-quality educational sessions in a video format.
If you become an Ausmed educator, you get to work with Ausmed’s Online Content team – AKA an amazing team of professionals who create, edit and publish hundreds of learning resources every year – to make meaningful contributions to Australia’s healthcare education sector.
We receive, assess and pursue expressions of interest from healthcare educators on a rolling basis.
To submit an expression of interest or an enquiry regarding becoming an Ausmed educator, fill out this form: Teach for Ausmed | Ausmed.