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How to Become a Counselor

April 22, 2014

Counseling is one of the most rewarding and demanding career fields. The ability to help someone overcome adversity and have a better life is an opportunity few people can pass up, as they are able to see their patients improve physically, emotionally and even spiritually. As their clients become active members of society once again, counselors are able to truly realize the impact they are capable of having on another human being. For those who wish to become counselors, there are a number of specialties from which to choose including marriage and family counseling, vocational counseling, substance abuse counseling, Christian counseling and much more. The process one follows to become a counselor can also vary, with positions requiring anything from a high school education to a medical degree, depending upon the specialty chosen.

Types of Counselors

Become a CounselorAs stated, there are many different types of counselors in today’s world. Perhaps the most well-known counselors are family and marriage counselors, who work with individuals and families to help resolve conflict and keep marriages and families intact. Using a combination of one-on-one and group counseling, these counselors focus on helping patients overcome emotional and mental disorders that are having negative impacts on their relationships. The job of a counselor is to be an extremely good listener while helping patients develop strategies that will help them deal with the issues they are facing. Examples of problems marriage and family counselors may encounter include infidelity within a marriage, problems with in-laws and other family members, conflict between parents and children and financial issues between husbands and wives.

Vocational counselors deal with issues regarding education and career planning. Many vocational counselors work in public schools and colleges, helping students make decisions regarding their careers and working with them when conflicts emerge in or out of the classroom. Since many students entering college are unsure of what career they should choose, vocational counselors meet with them to discuss their plans. These counselors will often give career assessment tests to students, helping them determine what careers their skills are best suited for. These counselors also help students when personal problems arise that are interfering with their studies, often working with them to develop social skills that help them overcome shyness, anxiety and other problems that can have a negative impact on their classroom performance.

Substance abuse counselors provide some of the most vital services to clients. In today’s highly-competitive and demanding world, it is very easy for people of all ages to find themselves turning to alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs to help them cope with various problems. However, all they accomplish by doing this is compounding whatever problems they already have. Before they know it, they are in over their heads and require professional help in order to overcome their addiction. This is where substance abuse counselors step in, using a combination of individual and group counseling to help patients kick their habits. These counselors will often work with patients for months or even years, developing very strong bonds while gaining their trust along the way. In this area of counseling perhaps more than any other, developing a strong level of trust with the patient is critical for success.

For many people who want to become counselors, it’s important that they be able to incorporate their religious faith into their counseling sessions. By becoming a Christian counselor, a counselor can help patients overcome problems by using Biblical principles and other faith-based principles. Many patients who are deeply religious and experiencing problems prefer to speak with certified Christian counselors, feeling they will have a better understanding of their problems and how to solve them. Christian counselors will deal with many different situations, which can include marriage difficulties, addiction issues, self-esteem issues related to weight gain or illness, career conflicts and much more. Many of these counselors work in private practice, although many can be found working in private religious schools and colleges. Christian counselors need to have a broad-based knowledge of various problems in order to successfully help their patients regain their lives, and are often taking courses on many different disorders to gain a better understanding of how specific Christian teachings can be used with their clients.

Educational Requirements for Counselors

The educational requirements for counselors vary almost as much as the types of problems they can expect to encounter in their practices. For most counseling positions, a Master’s degree in Counseling is required. However, that’s not the case for all counseling positions. Some counseling jobs, such as ones in local community social service agencies, require only an Associate’s degree or in some instances simply a high school education. Because the term counselor can be used to describe a variety of jobs, those working in small, local agencies may be working with clients on everything from parenting skills to job search techniques to performing better in school.

However, the majority of counseling jobs require degrees from four-year colleges and universities. To work in schools, social service agencies, hospitals or private practice it’s imperative to receive a degree from an accredited school. Before beginning classes at any school, prospective counselors need to make sure the school has accreditation that is recognized by the United States Department of Education. They should also check the requirements of any potential employer to make sure the degree they will receive has accreditation that will be recognized by that employer. In many instances, students have received degrees from schools, only to find out later on the degree is not recognized as having proper accreditation, in effect making it a worthless piece of paper.

In most counseling degree programs, students take a combination of classes in psychology, sociology, social work, criminal justice, political science and more to gain an understanding of the many factors that work together to not only create problems for people, but help them find solutions as well. Depending upon the area of specialization for a student, they may take more classes in one area than another. For example, those wishing to become school counselors will take more classes in child psychology and education, while substance abuse counselors will take more classes in biology, sociology and criminal justice to give them a better foundation for their careers. In all counseling programs, students are required to complete internships to give them practical experience dealing with patients in clinical settings. Always under the supervision of experienced counseling professionals, students spend their time observing counseling sessions, completing paperwork and eventually participating in and sometimes leading counseling sessions themselves.

Personal Attributes of Counselors

The best counselors, no matter what field in which they specialize, all share certain attributes that make them excel at their jobs. First and foremost, of course, is a genuine desire to help others overcome their problems and once again lead happy and productive lives. Counselors do not go into this line of work for the monetary rewards, but rather the rewards of seeing another human being once again flourish in their relationships, careers and other areas of life.

Another attribute that is critical to being a good counselor is the ability to listen to the client and put yourself in the person’s place. The best counselors know how to use active listening techniques to make sure they understand their client’s problems. Letting a client talk about their problems, then asking questions to make sure the problem is fully understood, help counselors gain insight and know which techniques would work best in eliminating the problem. Counselors should also be very good at conflict management, especially in situations where group counseling will come into play. Marriage and family counselors, in particular, need this skill when performing marriage counseling or other family counseling. In these situations, emotions are usually running high and everyone involved has a story to tell and are determined to be heard. The job of a counselor in these situations is to make sure everyone gets to tell their side of the story while maintaining order during the session.

The ability to have emotional stability when dealing with difficult situations is also needed by counselors. Depending upon the issues being dealt with at the time, it can be difficult to maintain objectivity and professionalism when dealing with clients. When subjects such as child abuse, sexual assault or other problems arise it is imperative counselors continue to abide by their professional laws and ethics. No matter how difficult it may be, counselors must be able to separate their personal and professional feelings while on the job. All counselors are held to a strict code of ethics when dealing with clients, including confidentiality and client-counselor relations. For example, it would be highly unethical for a counselor to date a client whom they are counseling through a divorce process, for this would be an obvious conflict of interest.

Career Outlook for Counselors

Counseling CareerFor those wishing to become counselors, the job outlook is very good. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for counselors is expected to be 29-35% between now and 2022. Some of the areas that are experiencing the strongest growth include marriage and family counselors, substance abuse counselors, rehabilitation counselors and career counselors. As the national and international economy continue to be uncertain, career counselors are finding themselves in high demand as many displaced workers seek career changes or return to school for training.

Most counseling jobs offer many positive attributes that make them highly attractive to those viewing it as a potential career. Usually having standard full-time hours, most of these jobs are 40 hours per week Monday through Friday, although some counseling jobs can require weekend, overnight or even holiday work. For those who are youth counselors or substance abuse counselors in residential treatment facilities, work schedules can include all of the above on a regular basis. However, most jobs offer excellent pay and benefits as a reward for all the hard work. Salaries for most counseling jobs average close to $45,000 per year, and include a variety of benefits including health insurance, paid vacations, tuition reimbursement for continuing education, retirement plans and more. Many jobs, particularly with school systems or government agencies, offer pension plans and opportunities for early retirement after 25 years of service.

As federal legislation has made individual health coverage mandatory, more people than ever before are expected to take advantage of the opportunity to have their counseling sessions paid for by their insurance companies. This, along with an increasing number of military veterans and active-duty personnel seeking counseling services, make this field one that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Mental health centers, community health clinics, hospitals and other agencies will all need the services of trained counselors to meet the growing demand of those seeking their services. As the stigma of seeking mental health services continues to be lifted, more people will also be willing to seek help with problems they may otherwise have tried to handle themselves or simply ignore, hoping they would go away. Counselors with training in helping specific populations such as veterans, the elderly, displaced workers and others will be in high demand for many years to come.

So for people who are willing to invest the time and energy needed to meet the educational and employment demands of the job, being a counselor can be a career unlike any other. Each patient is a new experience, a new opportunity to help a fellow human being overcome their problems and regain self-esteem and joy in their life. Whether it is helping a person kick a drug habit, working with students to decide on career choices or listening to a military veteran describe life on the battlefield, counselors continue to make a difference each day in the lives of their patients. Using a combination of listening, compassion, knowledge and ethics counselors are able to take the skills learned in classrooms and in the field and work magic in people’s lives. And by doing so, they make the world a better place to live. If you are looking for other similar careers to consider, you may want to look into psychiatry.

How to Become a Chiropractor

January 29, 2014

The Chiropractor is often the doctor of choice when it comes to back and muscle pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, as much as 80% of Americans will experience some form of back problem in their lifetime. One-half of all working Americans will admit to having back pain symptoms annually. It is the most common reason for missing work as well as a visit to the doctor’s office.

Sports injuries, bone loss, and arthritis are often the biggest culprits with pain. As a result, there is an increasing demand for quality pain relief. There is also increasing costs estimated at $50 billion per year. Given these statistics, there is definitely a demand for the profession to develop quality candidates.

The Road to Licensing and Education

Choosing a program of study is the most important component to becoming a Chiropractor. There are over 60,000 active chiropractic licenses in the United States. Chiropractic is also the largest and most regulated of all complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) professions. The school should focus on accreditation and professional continuing education. There are a few governing bodies in the Chiropractic profession:

American Chiropractic Association

The ACA (American Chiropractic Association) is the largest professional organization in the profession. The prestige of this organization is the exhaustive list of continuing education opportunities, conferences, and medical reports. Membership is available for both students and practicing doctors. As a result, this organization is a great choice to network and develop a deeper understanding of the profession.

The Council on Chiropractic Education

become chiropractorThe CCE (Council on Chiropractic Education) is the governing institution that ensures standards are in place for schools of Chiropractic training. The importance of quality education was ensured for protecting the profession and patients. It is important to find a school with this certification. Schools with this licensing have the support of a task force that ensures quality training and updated medical knowledge.

The road to becoming a Chiropractor starts with early education. Prospective students will need to obtain a high school diploma and focus early on requirements for school requirements at the undergraduate level. Requirements vary from school to school, but there is a safe consensus of requirements that all students should focus on at the university level:

Minimum 3.0 GPA or better of the latter semester credits

Although this is the minimum requirement, a higher GPA may be necessary to gain a competitive edge in certain schools. Most schools focus on the last 90 credit hours of coursework. Having a strong edge in coursework will be important.

Basic life science and physical science coursework

Courses often include Chemistry and Biology with lab. Chemistry courses should include organic and inorganic components. Some schools may have a requirement for Biochemistry with lab. Consulting with individuals graduate schools in advance will help to determine the amount of coursework in the life sciences that will be needed. Schools of Chiropractic Studies will usually maintain a strong western medical background

Emphasis on medical coursework

To gain a competitive edge, undergraduate coursework in anatomy and physiology will provide an edge in the admission process. A carry-over from medical coursework in pre-medicine emphasis is often helpful. In addition to the life sciences, courses that cross over into pre-medicine, nursing, and radiography are now important in pre-chiropractic studies.

Specialization and Differentiation

Chiropractic school follows a basic time length similar to medical school. This usually lasts four years but may take additional time if they wish to add any specialization outside Chiropractic to their practice. A specialization may or may not be in the graduate program. Some of these specializations include:

Joint Master’s or Certification in Public Health

With an aging population, many schools are placing emphasis on community health and growing concerns over back and muscle fatigue. Adding an emphasis in public health is becoming more common with all areas of the medical profession. Chiropractic care has dispelled many of the stereotypes of the profession and is reaching more of the population at large. Americans will be working longer into their ‘golden years’, requiring more medical treatment to reduce fatigue and pain.

Adding a master’s or certification will give the potential Chiropractor the additional advantage of community based knowledge. A private practice often deals with a large section of the population and an understanding of systemic problems as well as global trends is beneficial. An additional advanced certification will also be beneficial to the Chiropractor adding staff in the CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) field.

Board certification

Obtaining a history of quality patient care and continuing education should be on the mind of your chiropractic studies. The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners maintains all of the board certifications available for specialization. The main board certification is in four parts with additional testing in Acupuncture and assessments in clinical competency. There are also medical publications available as a source of knowledge for both current and potential Chiropractors.

The emphasis on board certification came as the result of more demand on chiropractic skills as well as legitimizing the profession further. The highly controlled aspects of Chiropractic care are requiring more standards-based education methods and testing to ensure candidates achieve quality instruction.

Veterinary certification

Humans are not the only breed to gain therapeutic benefit from muscle and spine pain. Veterinary certification is quickly becoming popular in Chiropractic Schools. Veterinary clinics that are larger will often house an on-call staff member who is a chiropractor additional clinical requirements as well as seasoned experience may be required.

Joint Master’s and certification in acupuncture treatment

As more patients view medical care with an emphasis on holistic care and a wellness approach, Chiropractic care is quickly becoming a mediator between other legitimate alternative therapy gaining traction in the medical community. Many larger wellness-oriented and naturopathic programs are finding their way into larger university programs. There are state and national boards available for testing.

In addition to board certifications, prospective students will also need to tap into resources to offset the cost of school. The average cost of chiropractic education is between $60,000-100,000. There are a variety of fellowship and scholarship opportunities available to offset the cost. Most schools provide a mix of merit, departmental, and endowed scholarships to potential students. State licensing boards also provide certification to potential students.

Job Requirements and Demands

Chiropractor Examines CT ScanMost Chiropractic schools place an emphasis on whole care and practical clinicals throughout the program. This gives the student a chance to find the specialty that will align with their career goals. Job shadowing early in your undergraduate years in different Chiropractic settings will allow you to gain an understanding of what to focus on in school.

Chiropractors serve to analyze and assess the health of the spine and nervous system. They check the functions of these systems in order to make adjustments to restore natural order and remove any interference. Much of this care is placed under correcting misalignments in the vertebrae of the spine.

The biochemical and physical structure of the spine is differentiated between each patient. In a typical day, the Chiropractor may perform alignments, prescribe exercises to perform at home, and other therapies to reduce pain. Chiropractors often use various objects for therapy as massage and manipulation for specific spots of treatment.

Skills for the Modern Chiropractor

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for Chiropractors is faster than average at 15%.. A great majority are self employed in private practice. As a result, there is a great demand to differentiate the practice by including additional services and specializations. There are several skills that would benefit the potential Chiropractor:

Healthy lifestyle promotion

Chiropractors will need to participate in a large wealth of knowledge to better assess their community and practice. Healthy lifestyle promotion is emphasized from start to finish in most medical programs in the United States and Internationally.

Ability to research and educate

An adept Chiropractor will need to be able to research upcoming medical news and make opinions based on their background. This research starts at the undergraduate level and continues well into the practice of the Chiropractor. There are several journals available:

Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics

This journal is a professional journal with emphasis on the American Chiropractic Association. It is the most commonly researched journal in academia.

Journal of Chiropractic Medicine

This journal is published on a quarterly basis and applies practical evidence and applications for the modern Chiropractor. The emphasis is on the advancement of the profession.

Journal of Chiropractic Humanities

Scholarly debate is important in any profession. The Journal of Chiropractic Humanities. is a peer-reviewed journal that focuses on the humanities aspect of the profession. It features dialogue and opinions on breaking topics. This is an excellent resource for potential students to see what is currently being debated in the field.

American Chiropractor

American Chiropractor is a popular magazine that is available to the public as well as chiropractic professionals. Articles feature stories in practice management, rehabilitation, interviews, and nutrition facts. Many of the emerging stories and articles are highly emergent with guest stores in technology and interviews with pioneering professionals.

Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy

This journal is an international peer-reviewed journal that is dedicated to academic training and the advancement of knowledge in therapeutic techniques. Each issue features guest editors, thesis reviews, and abstracts from current literature.

Alternative Medicine Review

Although there are excellent peer-reviewed journals available to the Chiropractor, there are also good models available for the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) field. The Alternative Medicine Review is a peer-reviewed journal that focuses on high-impact and clinically relevant articles associated to the field. The magazine is an excellent source for the budding Chiropractor to understand the connection between fields.

Critical thinking skills

The ability to be adaptable to immerse some eastern medicine with western medical models. Chiropractors will need to make decisions on individuals cases with patients based on a variety of assessments. Critical thinking carries over in all areas of the profession. Chiropractors will need to develop these critical skills over time as well. With manipulation and assessment, there is a great deal of understanding on the whole body system. This requires critical skills in comparison and forming analysis in assessments as well as a new breadth of knowledge every so often.

Excellent communication skills

Chiropractors will be communicating with staff, patients, and attending a variety of continuing education conferences. Excellent communication is critical for developing a good rapport with patients and staff. It is also a critical component in this profession to gain insight into pain and discomfort. Back and muscle pain exists on a spectrum of pain that often requires in depth communication to better describe it to a physician. Many patients are referred to a Chiropractor for this very reason. Pain can be a very difficult item to assess with limited communication.


Chiropractors are adapting to rapid changes in the medical community. Job roles are not always prescribed initially as a new graduate. You may be starting your career in a medical hospital or providing home health services. There is a huge amount of variety to the modern chiropractic profession.

A sense of business for a base in maintaining a thriving practice will require the use of excellent business knowledge. Students should take business courses at the undergraduate level to maintain a breadth of knowledge. Some of the more successful practices continue to use the best business models available.

In summary, the potential Chiropractor will need to realize that admission requirements are now just as strict as many medical schools. The requirements allow students to add joint degrees and programs that enhance the profession. This level of autonomy makes a Chiropractor in high demand as time goes on. There is now great support in the community and the emphasis in wellness prevention is making chiropractic care an excellent option for a career. Physicians are referring their patients for additional care to a quality Chiropractor. A quality practice will be able to thrive when the chiropractic student is able to interpret the skills needed to excel.

How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

January 29, 2014

In today’s fast-paced and patient-centered medical field, certified nursing assistants, also known as CNAs, are in high demand. CNAs are employed in doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, private homes and in adult daycares. These patient-care liaisons are essential in ensuring that patients receive adequate care in busy medical settings by assisting nurses working on the patient’s cases. There are several steps one must successfully complete prior to being hired as a certified nursing assistant.

What is a CNA?

A certified nursing assistant is responsible for assisting with patients or clients who have healthcare needs. CNAs are supervised by registered nurses (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). A certified nursing assistant is also called a CNA, patient care assistant (PCA), nursing assistant (NA) or state tested nurse aid (STNA).

CNAs are responsible for fulfilling basic needs of patients that improve quality of life. These responsibilities may include information-gathering tasks, such as taking vital signs, monitoring patient temperature, ordering blood tests and relaying this information to nurses or physicians. They are also responsible for providing bedside care to patients who have been anesthetized or who have a disability that makes toileting, bathing, eating or drinking difficult.

become a CNACNAs may also be required to administer medications, perform catheterizations, administer suppositories and enemas, irrigate wounds or give patient massages. They are responsible for cleaning and sanitizing all patient-care areas, applying clean dressings or bandages to wounds and documenting patient behavior, symptoms, complaints and concerns.

Certified nursing assistants care for both males and females of all ages, including infants, children, adults and the elderly. They may work in residential nursing care facilities, outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes or even in private homes. CNAs can expect to work a variety of hours, including days, nights, weekends and holidays as needed.

What Characteristics do CNAs Need?

Working as a certified nursing assistant is a demanding job that requires close attention to detail. CNAs must be excellent listeners, exhibit outstanding communication skills and be detail-oriented in order to accurately and efficiently relay patient information to the nurses. They must also be able to relay any information from nurses and physicians back to the patient in a compassionate and understanding manner. Many patients may be confused, scared or have a difficult time understanding a diagnosis or care instructions. It is important that CNAs can remain patient and have the ability to explain instructions in a variety of ways in order to ensure the patient understands what will happen.

The duties of a certified nursing assistant involve keeping a patient relaxed, calm, informed and comfortable. While some of the duties, such as helping a patient with toileting needs or cleaning wounds, may not be particularly pleasant for the CNA, successful certified nursing assistants must be able to carry out these duties without becoming nauseated or visibly uncomfortable or disturbed. CNAs must have a strong desire to help patients understand their treatment, be comfortable in distressing, frightening or painful situations. They must also be genuinely concerned about the well-being of others.

Certified nursing assistants may be required to work in very stressful situations and must be able to remain calm and patient, even in situations where patients are visibly anxious. Being empathic and compassionate can help put patients at ease. Maintaining composure in crisis situations is essential.

The hours a CNA works can be long with very few breaks. Because of this, certified nursing assistants must have the endurance to see and care for many patients in a short period of time. They must also have the ability to stay on their feet for long shifts.

Education and Training

Becoming a certified nursing assistant does not require a college degree or extensive training that would be expected of registered nurses or physicians. Because a degree is not required, being a CNA can be an excellent first job or may provide an income for one seeking to pay for a college education in order to enter a higher-paying medical career in the future. It is also a great choice for someone looking to change careers or enter the workforce after an extended absence.

It is required that a certified nursing assistant first earn a high school diploma or a GED before pursuing a career as a CNA. The next step is to enroll in a certification program. Some CNA certification programs can be taken online for individuals who may not be able to attend traditional courses due to family, school or job responsibilities. There are also traditional programs offered by colleges, universities or organizations such as the American Red Cross.

CNA certification courses are often taught by registered nurses. The first course is typically a patient care course that offers information on the duties and responsibilities of certified nursing assistants. Students learn to take vital signs, insert catheters, bathe patients and feed patients. Students also learn medical ethics and healthcare laws. This program is typically approximately 75 hours in length.

After the first course is completed, students typically will enroll in an externship that occurs in a clinical setting. In this course, students learn through hands-on experiences. Students will work in hospitals, medical clinics or nursing homes and will be given opportunities to practice the skills and knowledge learned in the first course. Students in the externship are usually supervised by a licensed nurse or physician. It is usually required that at least 16 hours of direct clinical experience is completed prior to certification. The clinical portion may also include CPR and first aid training.

In some cases, nursing homes or healthcare facilities will offer free training or will even pay the student to complete training. In exchange for training, the student will be required to not only complete the clinical supervised training in that facility but will also be required to work in that facility for a certain amount of time following certification. In exchange, the facility provides free classes and training, and in some cases facilities will even pay the costs associated with the certification examination. Another advantage is that the courses and on-the-job-training in these organizations can be completed in weeks instead of the months that would be required if classes were taken at a community college or through the American Red Cross. This means that one can be certified and earning a full salary in much less time, while also having a guaranteed employment option.

While direct training by an employer can be quick, convenient and less expensive, there are advantages to taking CNA certification courses through community colleges or the American Red Cross. These courses may take up to six months and cost between $300 and $600 to complete. However, the training may also be more comprehensive and prepare the future CNA to work in multiple types of settings, whereas the employer-based training may prepare you to work only in one specific clinical setting.

Certification Examinations

Following the completion of both the educational and the clinical components of training, students must successfully pass certification examinations before working as a certified nursing assistant. The items tested are based on information learned during both parts of training. One test is written and covers the student’s knowledge on patient care, medical ethics, healthcare laws, first aid practices and human development over the lifespan. Course instructors may be able to provide practice tests in order to help the student study for the test.

The second portion of the certification test covers knowledge and practices in a clinical setting. In this part of the test, students engage in patient caregiving and are observed by examiners. Students are tested on important aspects of patient care, including blood draw techniques, taking temperatures and blood pressure, monitoring vital signs, communicating with medical care providers, bathing the patient and transferring the patient from one area to another.

During the clinical certification test, it is important that students follow all patient safety measures as examiners will be assessing the student’s ability to keep patients safe. Some of these measures include raising bed rails, locking wheelchairs, hand washing, wearing clean gloves and making sure that patients have access to communication devices. Students are also assessed on the ability to maintain the privacy and dignity of patients by knocking on doors, closing privacy curtains and making the appropriate introductions to patients. Finally, the clinical certification test may also assess the student’s ability to maintain composure in stressful situations, be patient with difficult clients and follow appropriate procedures for contact with bodily fluids.

Once the educational, clinical and testing portions of training are complete, the student may then receive certification. This certification allows the student to work as a certified nursing assistant in any clinical setting.

Finding a Job as a Certified Nursing Assistant

Certified Nursing AssistantsToday’s healthcare industry is fast-paced and busy. Many organizations are looking for ways to operate efficiently and cost-effectively without sacrificing the quality of patient care. As a result, many of the responsibilities for basic quality-of-life care that were traditionally held by nurses are now falling on the shoulders of nursing assistants. As a result, there is a quickly-increasing demand for qualified certified nursing assistants.

In addition to the changing financial situations of many healthcare organizations, the population in the United States is quickly aging. There are also significant numbers of individuals who have survived severe injury or illness and now require long-term care. The number of individuals requiring nursing home or long-term rehabilitation care has increased at a far greater rate than the rate of individuals entering those career fields. As a result, there is a severe shortage of direct-care professionals in the healthcare industry. More nursing homes, clinics and hospitals are hiring certified nursing assistants in order to meet this quickly increasing demand, allowing those organizations to treat more patients in a shorter amount of time, and at a lower overall cost.

Because of this increased demand, many areas of the country have ample job openings for trained and qualified CNAs. Prospective employees should decide what type of healthcare environment they have the desire and experience to work in. CNAs can seek out employment opportunities with local nursing homes, hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation facilities, public health departments and physician’s offices.

For many CNAs the first place to to check for job openings is the facility which offered either the certified nursing assistant’s training or externship. These organizations may either be hiring recent trainees or may have contact information for local organizations that are seeking to hire new certified nursing assistants. The contacts made during the training and externship process can be extremely valuable in helping the new certified nursing assistant find a long-term position.

Another good place to check is the CNAs own physician’s office or local hospital. These places are likely to be ones that the certified nursing assistant has already developed a good relationship with, making it more likely that the healthcare organization will be willing to hire a newly certified CNA. In addition, certified nursing assistants can send resumes and qualification information to all local healthcare and nursing care organizations. Checking newspaper classified advertisements or online job posting boards may also help develop new leads for employment opportunities.

Becoming a certified nursing assistant is not a lengthy process as compared with the education and training procedures required for registered nurses or physicians. However, the training can be demanding and rigorous. CNAs can begin training soon after earning a high school diploma or GED, making this a wonderful first job for someone interested in entering the medical field. It may provide an excellent opportunity for training and networking for future physicians or registered nurses. It is also a wonderful job opportunity for those seeking career changes or reentry into the workforce.

While the training may be rigorous and the duties less-than-glamourous, a career as a certified nursing assistant can be very rewarding. This in-demand career fills a huge and urgent need in today’s medical field for qualified professionals who focus on the well-being and quality of life for patients facing significant medical issues or long-term care needs.

How to Become a Nurse

December 18, 2013

Becoming a nurse is no easy task. The nursing profession is expected to see substantial job growth from 2010 to 2020. The need for nurses is continuing to grow. It’s an excellent and lucrative profession, but there are a lot of different things that go into becoming a nurse. If you just want to become a nurse for the money and an easy job, you’re going to be in for a very rude awakening. The road to becoming a nurse is long, rough, and takes a lot of knowledge and dedication. However, this guide is going to show you the road on how to get ready for your dream profession. Using these steps, you will understand exactly what you need to do in order to jump-start your career as a registered nurse.

Step 1: Do All the Research You Can On Being a Nurse

how to become a nurseSome people want to get into professions without knowing exactly what those professions entail. Generally speaking, nursing can be one of those professions. That’s for a good reason, however. Nursing is a very noble profession and you get to help people on a daily basis. However, it’s important to do a lot of research on what being a nurse actually is. You may find that you don’t want to have anything to do with it. Even better, you may find that you become even more interested and you’ll want to work even harder to get into the profession. Either way, you want to be informed about your routine.

While you will want to do research on your own, here is a small idea of what nurses actually do:

  • Nurses are trained to treat patients and alleviate their symptoms.
  • Nurses are also there to provide emotional support for family and friends. This aspect can be very rewarding and very stressful. A lot of nurses have to be social and get along well with other people.
  • Nurses are required to keep records of the patient’s medical history.
  • Nurses can administer different medications and treatments.
  • Nurses have to be able to operate medical machinery.

As you can see, nurses do a lot! You have to have a great deal of understanding in many different technical aspects of medicine. If any of this sounds attractive to you, nursing may very well be the right career path for you. If not, you may want to look elsewhere. There are plenty of other jobs in the healthcare profession.

Step 2: Get On the Right Educational Path

Like doctors, students have to go through extremely strict educational requirements before they can become registered as nurses. First off, it’s best if your start your educational preparation as early as possible. When you’re in high school, you want to make sure that you’re doing well and understanding your science courses: Physiology, chemistry, biology, or anatomy. Do your absolute best in these classes, there’s only more to come if you decide to pursue the nursing profession. If there are electives that seem like they would lend themselves well to the nursing profession, take those as well. This is a great way to prepare yourself. Don’t be completely discouraged if some of these classes don’t come naturally to you. Anyone can learn anything. If you need to, hire a tutor or do a lot of extra studying. Not everyone is great at understanding the sciences, but these people can still become nurses.

Once you graduate high school, it’s time to focus on college. Most bigger colleges offer programs in nursing. At this point, it’s up to you to go whatever college tickles your fancy. There are three different ways to become a registered nurse:

  1. Get a LPN or LVN- Generally speaking, this degree is obtained by a year of training at an actual hospital. If normal colleges aren’t for you, this degree can also be obtained at a vocational or technical college. This is great for people that want to become a nurse, but don’t want to go to a traditional four year university.
  2. Obtain an ASN- These programs take about two years to complete. However, after his step, most people do move on to get their BSN.
  3. Obtain a BSN- This requires graduation from a traditional four year college. You get a lot of preparation while you’re pursuing your BSN. These courses include topics such as psychology, nursing theory, chemistry, biology, anatomy, and many other aspects of the medical field.

It’s also advisable that you take a little bit of time to do some volunteer work in a hospital or private practice. This allows you to gain some real world experience and get a feel for what some of your daily responsibilities are going to be. This will make your transition into becoming an actual nurse a lot easier and you will probably be able to impress some of your employers by how much you already seem to know.

Step 3: Choose Your Nursing Specialization

Nursing is one of those career options in which people get overwhelmed by how many different specialties there are. There are many different things that you can do with a nursing degree. As you’re getting your degree, you’re likely to get a feel for what some of the different specializations are.

A lot of nurses choose to be in the labor unit. This a great specialization for those that are interested in helping women. You will be there to help deliver the baby and this can be a great experience for some people.

Those that want to be on the “front lines” of sorts, should be in critical care. In critical care, you have a much smaller patient load, but the patients are usually in a very bad way. Those nurses that you see, in the movies and TV shows that are with our hero after he just suffered a fatal gunshot to the heart, those nurses in critical care. That could be you.

Pediatrics is another choice for those that like children. Caring for children can be a great experience, but it can also be a pretty stressful one. No one likes to to see sick people. Everyone hates seeing sick children. However, you will have a hand in making them feel better and bonding with them.

Psychiatric nursing is another option for those that want to help with the mentally ill.

All in all, there are many different specializations to choose from. Choose whichever one you think is going to be the best for you and whichever one you think you are going to be able to shine in. Not everyone can work with kids, maybe you can. Not everyone has the patience for working with the mentally ill, perhaps you do. Maybe you can handle all the blood and gore in the world, but seeing someone in labor makes your stomach turn. The great thing about the nursing profession is that there is a place for everyone.

Step 4: Prepare For, Take, and Pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse

Nursing Exam (NCLEX)If you want to, you can call it the “NCLEX” for short. Just like you heard a lot about the SATs during high school, you’re going to be hearing a lot about the NCLEX during nursing school. While prerequisites for this test do vary from state to state, you will need to have completed one of the three nursing programs mentioned earlier if you want to be able to take the test. In order to become a registered nurse, you have to pass this test.

Preparing for the test is fairly straightforward. Luckily for you and everyone else, the Internet exists. There are plenty of study guides that will help prepare you for the test. You are also in a nursing program with other people that plan on taking the test. Study with them and get some of their insight. A lot of people do better studying with other people. After all, misery loves company. The test is multiple choice, so get into good multiple choice test taking habits. Some people aren’t great at multiple choice, there are also study guides to ensure that you become a better multiple choice test taker.

All in all, you want to use all of the resources at your disposal. You want to be prepared, but don’t stress yourself out too much. You can always take the test more than once. In addition to that, the first timer pass rate was a solid 83%. If you’ve been working hard up to this point, the statistics show that you will probably do fine. If you’ve been struggling, you just have to work extra hard. Don’t stress out if a lot of these things didn’t come easy to you. As long as you persevere and do your best, no one can fault you.

Step 5: Find Your First Job as a Nurse

Now that you have passed the NCLEX, it’s time for you to find your first job as a nurse. This transitional period can be a very confusing time for people of every profession, let alone nurses. Luckily, there are over 2 million nurses currently working in the United States. This makes nursing the biggest profession in all of healthcare. First-year nurses should look into working on a specialty unit. The patients in the specialty unit are more homogeneous than those that will be in a surgical unit. This is a great way to get your feet wet and get a feel for what nursing is going to be like as your proceed with your career. If you did any volunteer work for a hospital or private practice during your education, it’s also a great idea to get in touch with them again. If you did well, you may end up having a job waiting for you before you even pass your NCLEX.

One thing to never forget is the military. While there are plenty of jobs in the States, you never know, you may want to join the military and become a nurse for the enlisted. You will get a lot of experience and you are going to be a shoe-in with your educational background. It’s a very fulfilling and noble option. You may wish to do it for years and years to come.

Whatever the case, nursing jobs are always in demand. Unlike a lot of other professions, getting hired is honestly the easy part.

Step 6: Moving Forward

Now that you have your first job, don’t think your work is over. The medical and healthcare fields are so exciting because they are constantly changing with the times. There is a lot of new legislation being passed, medications being tested, and economic factors that are going to affect you and the way you perform your job. It is very important that you keep current with all these trends and keep your practices up to date. Read medical journals, articles, and keep yourself informed. Few things in healthcare are stagnant.


Likely, this guide provided enough information to let you know whether becoming a nurse is something you want to pursue. There may have been some aspects to nursing that you found very exciting, or there may have been some aspects to nursing that you found completely repulsive. It’s important to be informed before deciding if nursing is the right career path for you. If this guide persuaded you in one way or the other, then it did its job. Becoming a nurse takes a long time and it’s hard road to go down. However, this guide was also meant to convey just how rewarding of an experience nursing can be. While it may not be the easiest career path in the world, those that take the time and effort to pursue it are going to learn a lot, make a lot of friends, and do a lot of good for a lot of people.

How to Become a Psychiatrist

December 18, 2013

Psychiatrists are medical doctors that strive to understand and empathize with human actions in order to assist patients in changing their behavior. Psychiatrists love their work because they see every day as a puzzle to be solved, and they take great joy in helping patients find solutions to their problems. Psychiatry is an exciting and challenging field, but it isn’t a good fit for everyone. This stimulating field demands years of training, a thick skin, a compassionate outlook, and a critical and curious mind. Does this sound like you? If so, then psychiatry could be your future career.

Preparing for a Career as a Psychiatrist

how to become a psychiatristPsychiatrists spend over a decade in college, medical school, and residency. In order to become a psychiatrist, you must be comfortable spending a long period of time in school and training. You must also be able to make a significant monetary investment; even completing this training at an affordable institution will add up over time.

If you are still in high school, be certain to take sociology and psychology if they are offered. You should also be earning the best grades possible, so you can get into a quality undergraduate school. This will be important later on when you apply to medical school.

Enroll in an undergraduate program that offers a pre-med program or enough science classes for you to get into medical school later on. If your college doesn’t have a pre-med program, you will be expected to take classes such as: general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, and certain math classes

While you are still in high school or college, take advantage of volunteer opportunities that can help you gain valuable experience. If possible, get a volunteer position in a hospital or mental health facility. This will help you become familiar with medical environments. This is also a great time to work on developing your listening and communication skills.

Helpful Personal Traits

Becoming a psychiatrist is a long journey and it isn’t for everyone. It takes a special kind of person to be able to help patients the way a psychiatrist does. As you consider pursuing this career, keep in mind that there are several personal qualities that will help you become successful. Here are just a few traits that successful psychiatrists must possess:


As a psychiatrist, you will learn that it sometimes takes clients months or years of therapy in order to achieve results. We all love instant gratification, but you can’t expect to see results after just a few sessions. When you are dealing with life-long problems and addictions, you have to be patient and get comfortable with the idea that your clients must move at their own pace. Eventually you will feel the satisfaction of seeing results, but it won’t happen right away.


Ever heard of a doctor having a good “bedside manner”? This may be optional for some physicians, but not for psychiatrists. In order to be a successful psychiatrist, you must be an inherently caring and compassionate person. Whether your client is a self-absorbed socialite or an anorexic teenager, you must be able to empathize with your clients no matter what. In order to practice compassion, psychiatrists must imagine themselves in other people’s situations. Are you capable of empathizing without judgment? If so, you may have the compassionate traits of a psychiatrist.

Communication Skills

Though many careers require good communication skills, psychiatrists utilize this skill on a daily basis. You may think that a psychiatrist’s job consists mostly of listening, but a big part of the job also involves the ability to effectively communicate. When a psychiatrist listens to a patient relay a problem or issue, they must also be able to repeat this information back to the patient. For example, it is common for a psychiatrist to say things like “what I’m hearing you say is…” This allows the patient to clarify what is being said and also helps the psychiatrist to communicate clearly with the patient.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor’s degree will take about four years to complete. Some students are able to complete a three year accelerated bachelor program, but not all schools offer this option. Although students are not required to complete a “pre-med” major this can often be helpful.

Many students are admitted to medical school with a wide range of majors that may or may not be related to science or math. At the very least, medical schools are looking for one year of biology, one year of organic chemistry, one year of inorganic chemistry, and one year of English. It is also beneficial to have taken calculus and biochemistry.

In order to be accepted into medical school, you must keep your grades up. In general, successful medical school applicants have a grade point average between 3.5 and 4.0. Medical school applicants will also need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This test measures ability in verbal reasoning, writing, and biological and physical sciences. Minimum scores vary depending on the school. In addition to these requirements, you will also need to complete a personal interview, essay, and get recommendations from former professors or coworkers.

Medical school will take another four years to complete in addition to a bachelor’s program. In medical school, you can expect to take classes such as anatomy, physiology, histology, biochemistry, embryology, pathology, pharmacology, microbiology and immunology.

Two years into medical school, students will need to take the first section of the US Medical Licensing Exam. The last year of medical school, students will then take the second and third parts of this exam. Students must also take a Clinical Skills Exam which assesses how well students are able to function in a clinical setting with actual patients.

During the last part of medical school, students must select a specialty. Medical students must then complete one year of general medical practice in a residency program and then two or three years of residency in psychiatry. Students who would like to certify in a specialty area like forensic or child psychiatry, can expect to spend even more time in training.

In residency, medical students will actually get to begin working with real patients. Students will complete rounds with a resident or a supervising doctor. This process allows students to receive feedback from working professionals in the field as well as getting real-world experience. During this time, students are also required to be on call, working late nights and early mornings, often with very little sleep. Students of psychiatry can expect to be on call for attempted suicides, emergency admissions, and other psychiatric cases. This is a grueling process, but it help to prepare students for the hard work ahead of them.

Getting a Job

career in psychiatryAs you can see, it takes quite a few years of education and training in order to become a psychiatrist. After completing college, medical school, and residency, you are now ready to get a job and establish yourself in the field. The stereotypical psychiatrist that is portrayed in popular culture is often shown working in a private practice. For most psychiatrists, a private practice fresh out of med school is not a likely option. Many beginning psychiatrists will start out working in a treatment center, hospital, or clinic. This could eventually lead to the creation of a private practice down the road.

As you prepare for your job search, be sure to utilize the resources available through your school’s career center. They will be able to help you update your resume and apply to available jobs in your area. Also, make sure that you have professional or academic references ready to send to potential employers.

Professional organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association can also provide a wealth of resources and job leads. Research the various professional associations and look for positions on their individual job boards. Join the association that corresponds to your sub-specialty for even more access to jobs that may meet your qualifications and interests.

Possible Earnings

If you are considering a career as a psychiatrist, then you are probably curious to know how much money you will earn each year. The answer is not cut and dry and depends on quite a few different factors such as location, status, and hours. On average, a psychiatrist earns about $150,000 each year.

You certainly will have the opportunity to earn much more than $150,000 per year if you develop a private practice in an area with wealthy clientele who are willing to pay a higher hourly rate. For example, in Beverly Hills or New York City, high-end psychiatrists may charge over $300 per hour. Your annual salary is highly dependent upon the environment in which you choose to work and your dedication to developing your professional skills in private practice.

As you consider your salary, also take into account that you will need to repay any student debt you have incurred during your training. Not many students can afford to pay out of pocket for a decade or more of education and training. As you think of your monthly take-home pay, be sure to consider that you will most likely have a hefty student loan payment.

Although this field may prove to be very lucrative for some, money is typically not the reason why people choose to go into the field of psychiatry. People who pursue this line of work are often drawn to it due to a desire to help others and the satisfaction they feel from developing complex therapeutic relationships. In other words, the job pays well, but a strong interest in assisting patients is also necessary.

Pros and Cons

There is never a boring day in this field. Every day is different and every day presents a new challenge. It is common for psychiatrists to still feel eager to go to work each morning even after many years working in this position. Another advantage of working as a psychiatrist is that it is intellectually stimulating. Psychiatrists must use problem solving skills as well as critical thinking skills in order to help patients.

There will always be a need for psychiatrists and the field is only growing larger. This means that prospective psychiatrists can expect to have job security in the coming years. While it is true that most psychiatrists don’t earn as much as other medical doctors, the pay is still decent. It will also get better as you gain experience and/or build your private practice.

As with any profession, there are some downsides to psychiatry. If you are not a strong person, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the negativity you encounter on a day-to-day basis. It is common for psychiatrists to deal with individuals that are depressed, suicidal, or just plain sad. For those who have a tendency to “take work home” this is very emotionally draining.

Psychiatrists who deal with managed care patients often become easily frustrated. You might feel that a patient genuinely needs eight months of therapy sessions, but insurance will only cover three months of sessions. Some managed care organizations may also pressure psychiatrists into prescribing pharmaceutical treatment rather than using therapy.

Is this Career Right for Me?

Even after learning more about the path to becoming a psychiatrist, you might still be wondering whether or not this is the right field for you. If hard work scares you, then this is not the field for you. If you are easily discouraged, then this is not the field for you. If money is the most important thing to you, then this is not the field for you.

While there is no way to know for sure whether or not you should become a psychiatrist, there is one question you can ask yourself to get a fairly good indication: Am I passionate about helping people? Those who are serious about helping people along with a willingness to work hard, are ready to start the journey to becoming a psychiatrist. For those who succeed, a fulfilling, lucrative, and interesting career lies ahead.