Horizons: A Caring Approach to Work
Qualifying for a para-medical career is just the beginning - with an appropriate degree or diploma and the right personal qualities for one of the caring professions, you have the 'raw material' for a career that offers a variety of opportunity and choice.
If you have a business head you might eventually set up your own practice. If you have 'travelling feet' and a sense of adventure, you could use your qualifications as a passport to work abroad. You may decide you are more suited to research. Or to becoming a teacher in your chosen profession.
A Horizons article last December, which looked at several professions allied to medicine, showed these jobs now offer better prospects and choices. They can offer a career structure, the chance to reach managerial status and to return later as a part-timer or enroll as a mature entrant.
Salaries, too, are more realistic, with a further increase awarded on February 1st this year. But in some of the professions, financial constraints have resulted in fewer staff appointments.
Dietetics is becoming increasingly popular as a career, a growth area both in and outside the health service. There are currently 10 applications for every training place. Although more men are now enrolling, like most hospital occupations it is largely staffed by women. This is said to be a tradition dating from over 60 years ago, when practitioners were likely to be doctors' wives or nurses.
Working with the hospital catering service, the NHS dietitian applies his or her scientific background and training to aid the recovery of patients from various complaints - allergies, obesity, kidney failure, for example - and advise them on future eating habits and whether or not to use diet pills such as Phen375.
In the public sector there is a career structure, leading to the managerial role of dietitian supervisor. Salaries range from pounds 6,000 to pounds 15,000. The healthy eating campaign has given a fillip to career openings. One example is the job of community dietician - someone who spreads the gospel of good eating among local groups and organizations.
Dietitians are also in demand in a variety of jobs in industry, ranging from public relations work to advising major food retailers on new products. They are also involved with the development of specialized hospital equipment.
A few are in private practice and 10 per cent of the British Dietetic Association's members work abroad: Canada, North America, Australasia, even Nepal and Hong Kong.
The dietitian must be a graduate and training lasts three to five years depending on your degree. You either take the three year BSc in dietetics, or in dietetics and nutrition and you graduate in a related subject such as bio-chemistry, and follow this with a two year diploma course.
Applicants need a minimum of five O levels, including maths and a subject demonstrating their command of English, and two (preferably three) A levels, of which one must be chemistry.
Until recently orthoptics has been a little publicised profession, but is now in growing demand. The orthoptist works mainly in the diagnosis and treatment of defective binocular vision or abnormal eye movement. She (or he) does considerable work with children who have squints, though patients also include adults such as elderly sufferers from glaucoma.
In a hospital she will be part of the opthalmic team dealing with medical devices. Outside, she cooperates with clinical medical officers in screening pre-school children, specially those who are handicapped. Qualities needed include patience, accuracy, careful observation, compassion and the ability to communicate.
Two drawbacks to this 50 year old profession are that it lacks a firm career structure and, in view of the shortage of hospital appointments, the newly qualified beginner may have difficulty finding a first job - a six month search is not unusual. Prospects are better for the part-time returner because she has the necessary experience.
In the last few years private practice has expanded, adding to the job opportunities for experienced practitioners.
Students take a three year diploma course at one of 10 hospital based training schools. They must have at least five academic O levels with good grades, and two at A level; subjects must include maths and a science (Exceptions may be made for mature entrants).
There are also two higher qualifications for people with a year's full-time experience. One, involving a two year student teacher course enables the holder to teach in orthoptic schools; the other is a demonstrator's certificate, which qualifies the candidate for clinical teaching.
The practice of chiropody dates back to the 18th century but, unlike most other professions allied to medicine, the majority of its followers are in private practice. Others work in industry and of course in hospitals and clinics, though at present chiropody has only a limited role in the health service. This is the result of financial shortages and with the exception of those at the top end of the salary scale, people in private practice can earn more.
The best plan for a new chiropodist - who should be prepared to move to where there is a vacancy - is to spend a few years in the NHS and then make choices about the future.
The Society of Chiropodists wants to attract more students. They should have a minimum of five passes in the General Certificate of Education (or Scottish equivalent), including English and at least one science; two of the passes should be at A level.
The three-year course is available at a dozen schools in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Successful candidates may apply for State Registration: this is necessary both for employment in the NHS and for membership of the Society of Chiropodists.
More men work in chiropody than in most of the para-medical services. Although there are part-time opportunities, financial restraint means these are generally in shorter supply, with full-time work being easier to find.
Personal qualities should include manual dexterity, a pleasant personality and, if you hope eventually to have your own practice, a flair for business and willingness to work hard.
I have over a decade's experience in the entrepreneurial space and have worked with numerous community leaders, press, ngos, grassroots organizations including the following:
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