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What Is a Patient Educator and How to Become One

What Does a Patient Educator Do?

A patient educator helps patients and their families understand their treatment options in regard to various medical conditions and life events. As a patient educator, you can specialize in different types of patient education, such as childbirth, lactation, diabetes, respiratory aid, or HIV. Your job duties are to consult with patients who are seeking treatment recommendations, inform patients about the advantages and disadvantages of different courses of treatment, and check in with physicians and other medical staff to follow up on patient care plans. You may also create educational campaigns for the general public and connect patients with support groups. Your general responsibilities include monitoring your patients’ health and providing new treatment recommendations based on their progress.

How Do I Become a Patient Educator?

The qualifications for a career as a patient educator vary among employers. Some healthcare facilities require you to have a high school diploma or G.E.D. certificate and experience in patient education or a medical office. Other medical facilities require you to be a registered nurse (RN) before becoming a patient educator, and the qualifications to earn certification vary by state. To become an RN, you need either an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing as well as a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Earning a bachelor’s degree has become the standard for most patient educators and is often required for advancement in this career.

What Characteristics Make a Successful Patient Educator?

Strong communication skills are essential to being a successful patient educator. You must interact with patients and medical personnel via telephone, online communication, and in person. Having a compassionate nature is helpful when working with patients and families who are worried about health issues and treatment options. They need your patience and sympathy to work through a challenging time. You must be knowledgeable about various treatment options and the advantages and disadvantages of each. General computer skills are necessary to schedule appointments, document patient information, and track patient records.