5 Health Care Careers for the Researcher In You

Coffee might help you live longer — or so says a recent study that’s making its rounds on social media. Though the report is careful to avoid definitively stating that drinking coffee will prolong your life, the data collected points to coffee drinkers having a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and respiratory and kidney disease. How great would it be to work with the team of scientists conducting interesting, life-impacting research like this? Imagine all the people you’d meet, the lives you could change — and the coffee you’d drink while doing it!

Medical research is an extremely fulfilling field, especially when you consider the lives improved — or saved — through its findings. Check out the amazing accomplishments of these medical researchers:

  • “Stem Cell Architect” Sir Martin Evans was the first to culture the embryonic stem cells of mice and cultivate them in a lab.
  • Leading expert on blood disorders that cause anemia, David J. Weatherall focuses on the molecular foundation of thalassemia.
  • Australian Elizabeth Blackburn co-discovered an enzyme that protects chromosomes and won a Nobel Prize for the discovery.

These health care professionals prove that you don’t have to go the hands-on provider route to have a health care career. There is always a need for behind-the-scenes researchers,  especially informaticists, investigators, epidemiologists and pharmaceutical scientists.

Informaticists put info to work

The field of informatics is growing rapidly, mostly due to an increasing reliance on electronic health records. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 21% growth rate (7% faster than average) in the health informatics field between 2010 and 2010. This means almost 50,000 jobs will open in the next few years.

Informatics combines three different medical fields: health care, technology and business. Those who work in this field aim to increase efficiency and reduce error in order to bring health care costs down. Just like most other health care careers, informatics gives you the option of specializing in areas like bioinformatics, nursing informatics, public health and even dental informatics.

Become a nursing informaticist

The nursing field has more varieties than you can count on one hand. Many you have heard of, but this one may be new to you: As a nursing informaticist, you’ll combine research with practical knowledge and watch it all integrate with the nursing field.

Nurse informaticists can work almost anywhere, including academia and the corporate world. The research they focus on includes how to integrate new knowledge into practice, which often presents opportunities to work in the field with other nurses.

Another option: Go the dental informaticist route

Similarly, those in the dental field who wish to apply well-researched methods and models to dental practices are called dental informaticists. This is a relatively new field, only a few decades old, but has already had a positive effect on dental research, as well as patient care and education.

Among the areas that dental informaticists study, there are several that may interest you as a researcher:

  • Studying and compiling geographic information for dental epidemiology.
  • Supporting genetic studies in oral health.
  • Developing devices that allow dentist to record patient information during exams.

Dental informatics is the intersection of health informatics and dentistry. As the field of dentistry changes, dental informaticists can help make the changes result in more efficient dental care. The American Dental Association’s Center for Informatics and Standards strives to provide expertise for policy development, publications and advocacy.

Crime scene investigators research in the field

If combining field work, research and a somewhat physically demanding job appeals to you, then consider crime scene investigation. Crime scene investigators, often called CSIs, work with law enforcement to determine what actually happened during a crime. They collect physical evidence, write reports detailing what happened and are often called to testify in court.

Research, especially related to legal procedures and precedents, is a key task for CSIs. Often in smaller communities, the CSI’s duties also include forensics. Processing and analyzing evidence as well as writing detailed reports are all part of a CSI’s job. No two days are the same for a CSI, which is part of what makes this career so appealing.

Epidemiologists investigate diseases

Commonly called “disease detectives,” epidemiologists investigate the cause of diseases and help to control their spread. They look for patterns, trends and commonalities between people who have the same disease, investigating where it started and how to stop it from spreading.

Hospitals may employ epidemiologists, and governments, non-profits and private organizations do as well. The job combines quantitative skills like biostatistics and computer applications, and qualitative methods like assessing health care quality. It’s an often challenging and highly rewarding job.

Pharmaceutical scientists get lab work done

If the process of developing, testing and manufacturing medication appeals to you, consider becoming a pharmaceutical scientist. This research job takes place mostly in a laboratory, where you’ll learn how compounds interact with the human body and disease-causing cells. The creation process of new medicines is time intensive and goes through several stages, including discovery, development and manufacturing.

A few of specialization options include:

  • Studying how disease affects the body and why some people develop diseases while others don’t.
  • Working on improving the manufacturing process.
  • Studying how the human body reacts to medications.
  • Advising non-medical entities on issues related to pharmaceutical development.

These health care positions are putting data to work, changing the future of medicine and increasing its contribution to society. Get started on your health care career path today to join those making a difference through research.


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