If you want to be a nurse, there are probably other professions that would interest you as well. People who work in these industries tend to enjoy medicine and have a desire to help others. In what field you choose to work will depend on what environment you prefer (hospital or outpatient setting, for example) what kinds of tasks you like (emergency medicine like CPR, care for long-term illnesses, or imaging studies) and how much money you need to make.
EMTs and Paramedics
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics care for injured or sick people in an emergency setting. If you’ve ever called an ambulance for yourself or a friend, these are the people who arrive on the scene and drive the ambulance to and from the hospital. To be an EMT or paramedic you have to know a lot of the same things nurses do – CPR, how to bandage wounds, how to determine a course of treatment, and create medical reports. The main difference is that EMTs and paramedics deliver care in high-stress environments and hand the patient off to doctors and nurses once they arrive at the hospital. They deal with more acute issues, like heart attacks, seizures, and broken bones, and fewer of the long-term illnesses and less urgent issues that nurses come across. They make, on average, about $30,360 a year. The field will grow by about 33% from 2010-2020, and people must complete a formal training program and become licensed in order to work in the profession.
Dental hygienists are like nurses for your teeth. They clean teeth, apply sealants to protect them, take and develop x-rays, keep track of patient medical records, and educate patients about proper oral healthcare and hygiene. They are similar to nurses in that they assist doctors (in this case dentists) but typically work with less serious issues. A lot of their work will be with routine check-ups, cavities, or minor surgeries, while nurses may deal with life-threatening illnesses and emergency scenarios. Also, nurses can work in a variety of settings, some inpatient and some outpatient, while virtually all dental hygienists work in outpatient dentists’ offices. They make about $68,250 a year on average, and the field is growing by about 38% up until 2020. In order to become one you have to complete an associate’s degree, become licensed, and meet all the requirements mandated by your state.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Diagnostic medical sonographers use special imaging equipment (called sonograms) to take pictures of different organs, assess problems, and make diagnoses. People in this profession take patients’ histories and prepare them for exams, operate the equipment and direct the waves to a specific part of a patient’s body, analyze the images for accuracy and thoroughness, detect abnormal images, and record findings. They can take images of the abdomen, breasts, musculoskeletal regions, the brain, and the female reproductive system. They are similar to nurses in that they can work in a variety of settings – hospitals, physicians’ offices, or outpatient care centers – and they help treat patients. They do not, however, have the same breadth of medical knowledge that nurses do, as they focus solely on imaging procedures. Sometimes they have an associate’s degree, and other times only a postsecondary certificate. They make about $64,380 a year in a field that is growing by about 26% from 2010-2020.