This issue of Insightfocuses on health and on the health-oriented degree programs offered through the College of Liberal Studies. These include Human and Health Services Administration (graduate), Lifespan Care (undergraduate) and Prevention Science (graduate), the latter being the first online program of its type in the nation and one that helps reinforce that prevention is more than just pathology. Most often, students in these programs are seeking career advances or advantage, occupational changes or other benefits. Many have worked in health fields for years and are hoping, with a degree or an advanced degree, that they will be better qualified to move into supervisory roles.
Health Career Trends
We are pleased to offer these “career track” programs because they respond to contemporary demands and reflect current trends, such as:
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that “the healthcare and social assistance industry will produce one in three of the net new jobs” (Adams, 2015). This amounts to almost 3.8 million new jobs by 2024. The health industry may be the largest growing “field” among all occupational groups. With transformations occurring in healthcare due to technological changes, provider issues and occupational complexity, “almost all health care jobs will grow” (ExploreHealthCareers.org).
- Healthcare “is set to become more team-oriented and technology-driven.” This suggests a need for both soft and hard skills in health-related fields. The soft skills most required include not only interpersonal and relationship-building skills, communication and team work, but writing, policy and strategic planning, and situational ethics. In addition, those working in healthcare must be responsive to patients and families, exhibit trust and maintain confidentiality particularly in handling personal information and medical records (Santiago, n.d.).
- One emerging healthcare career employing soft skills is the healthcare navigator. This professional works with patients and their families to deal with the process and bureaucracy of healthcare, including sometimes working as an intermediary between recipients of healthcare and insurance companies, hospitals and government agencies. The healthcare navigator is related to the patient advocate or representative. The individual in this role helps “to facilitate smooth coordination of health services for patients” (Santiago, 2013).
The Human Emphasis
You may notice in these trends how much the “human element” is underscored. Our graduate degree track is intentionally identified as Human and Health Services Administration, with human listed first.
Healthcare in this nation will become ever more important as new technologies are created to address health problems, as new medical protocols arise, as new specialties emerge and, of course, as the population ages. However technical and scientific the health industry becomes, everything boils down to people. Healthcare professionals must interact effectively with people, and dealing with people always involves interpersonal relations and employing soft skills.
Many health and human service careers exist in the nonprofit arena. For undergraduate students in our Administrative Leadership program, CLS offers an array of required and elective courses that enable students to prepare for positions in nonprofit organizations and thrive in the public sector. Courses like Nonprofit Management, Cultures of Organizations, Cultural Diversity and many others are particularly suited for individuals working in this area.
CLS and OU Outreach have been working in partnership with the American Institute for Healthcare Quality (AIHQ) to extend noncredit health-related certificate programs to international audiences. The Certificate in Healthcare Quality and the Certificate in Executive Leadership are initiatives of Dr. A. Al-Assaf, professor emeritus from the OU Health Sciences Center, adjunct professor for CLS and executive director of AIHQ. These certificate programs combine on-site instruction, practica, research projects and a final examination to help participants gain an understanding of critical healthcare management, leadership and environmental safety among other issues.
Once these programs are developed initially for Middle East audiences, we plan to extend them to other parts of the globe as well.
The Wellness Coach
Late last year, Jossey-Bass published a monograph that a colleague and I edited on the topic of coaching for adult populations. One interesting direction we uncovered in our research of future trends was the emergence of the wellness coach. This health career professional “works with clients [attempting to overcome health issues] to help them become grounded in wellness principles, understand the importance of and value in making critical lifestyle changes and regard the coach as an ally as they choose to make positive health-related decisions” (Pappas & Jerman, 2015). Once again, the importance is placed on human interaction and making use of soft skills.
All CLS programs, in health areas and others, provide students with broad-based perspectives that enable them to understand and integrate the overwhelming mass of information that characterizes our complex modern world. As you well know, a liberal studies education gives students the intellectual skills to solve problems from a variety of different contexts rather than relying on one or two disciplinary perspectives. This is the true value of a liberal studies education and a liberal studies degree.
James P. Pappas, Ph.D.
Vice President for Outreach and
Dean, College of Liberal Studies
Note: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.