Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jobs that have meaning: Career switching to rewarding work important to today’s worker

“I’ve spent the last decade doing a job that paid well, but was completely unrewarding to me. Now, I want a different kind of job. I want to feel like my work has meaning.”

A small group of us were out to dinner, and Jennifer was answering my query, “What kind of work do you do?”

Jennifer continued, “I’m at the point in my life where I feel like my days are too valuable to waste doing a job that doesn’t matter to me. I honestly don’t care what I earn; I just want to feel like my life – and my work – makes a difference in the world.”

The Boston Globe ran a story this week about the number of people who are choosing to leave their jobs to become teachers. One man ran an internet start-up, but loved reading at his kid’s school. According to the article, “He loved the feeling he was making a difference” – and he got hooked. Today, he teaches middle school in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

My friend Jennifer is contemplating entering the career of nursing. She wants to work with children; possibly infants and newborn.

As economic turmoil reshapes our world, many people find themselves at a career crossroads. Some view this as an opportunity to switch to a career that offers more personal satisfaction, even if the paycheck is lighter. In industries such as education and health care, pathways are opening up to help people get there quickly.

For people who wish to convert their skills to teaching, the New Teacher Project helps people quickly switch careers. The program has seen an increase in 44% from the previous year.

In healthcare, more and more opportunities to gain at least entry level skills through distance education are emerging. These programs allow individuals who don’t have the time or money for a full-time traditional education to gain the knowledge and skills – and often, important certification – needed to enter these high-demand careers.

For the career-switchers mentioned in the Boston Globe story, the personal pay-off has been huge and long-lasting. Getting a paycheck while doing a job that offers personal satisfaction is worth it, they all agree. For anyone contemplating the change to a more satisfying career, new online training and resources can make the change easier and more accessible.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The journey that ends in a fulfilling career in health or senior care

Have you ever asked someone “How did you get started in THAT job?”

Many of us have following long, winding career paths, ending up at a place we didn’t even know existed.

Many of us are still looking for that place – the place where our talents and skills are used every single day in our work; where we go home each day feeling like what we did today mattered; where we earn a decent, respectable income, doing work that we love.

The journey to that magical place is often one filled with twists and turns. We may not know exactly where we’re going but we have the sense that we’ll know it when we arrive.

Often the starting point is something as simple as taking a course in a subject that sounds like it might be interesting. That course might lead to a specialty certification, which might lead to a job that – voila’ – becomes that perfect fit.

Many of these jobs aren’t licensed. Some don’t require any specific training at all. These jobs are the ones that are open to everyone; getting started in them is often mostly a matter of knowing the right person.

Until now. With the specialized training programs available you can jump to the head of the line. You can demonstrate that you’re motivated, willing to learn – and able to learn in a self-directed way, using today’s technology – and you’ll have a Certificate to prove it.

We talked to many, many employers about these training programs. We know that they aren’t required to hire someone with this training – but every single one we talked to said, “YES – we’ll give someone hiring preference with this kind of evidence of training!”

Life is a journey. Finding the work you love is the place where the journey ends and the career begins. We’re here to help.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Need for national caregiver training standards crucial for quality care for our nation's elderly

PHInational recently announced that their efforts to begin defining the terms for direct care workers have begun to have effect. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB)has accepted the term “Personal Care Aide” as the consistent term it will use to define work provided by caregivers in a variety of settings, including home and community based care. (Full story)

Having a standard language – or at least job title– is a good starting place. We can begin to talk about the role of direct care workers, caregiver, attendants and others in the same way we talk about CNAs and home health aides – in words we all understand.

The next step – an important step – is to begin defining what this term means.

What prepares someone to become a Personal Care Aide? What training, at a minimum is required?

The Caregiving Project for Older Americans, a collaboration of the International Longevity Center-USA and the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education co-produced a white paper last year titled “The Need for National Training Standards/Guidelines for Privately Paid Geriatric Home Caregivers.”

The paper starts out with these two stories:

Margaret, a 78-year-old widow who lives alone, is normally up and ready for breakfast by 7 A.M. Today, however, she was still asleep when the in-home private duty caregiver arrived at the house. When the caregiver checked on her, Margaret said she wanted to sleep. The caregiver, who has cared for older adults for many years, but who has had no formal caregiver training, assumed Margaret must be more tired than usual this morning and left her alone. She cleaned the house and the kitchen as usual and left without taking further action. The next day, Margaret’s daughter came by to find her mother still in bed. Margaret was admitted to the hospital with a urinary tract infection.

Fred, an 83-year-old retired businessman, relies on in-home private duty home care several hours each day. Today, however, when his caregiver arrived he was uncharacteristically disheveled, acted as if she were a stranger, and gruffly told her he didn’t want her there. The untrained caregiver documented that services were refused and went on to her next client, while Fred was left alone until the next morning. Fred was later hospitalized, with dehydration and delirium.

In both of these situations the outcome would very likely have been different if the caregiver had been professionally trained. Margaret’s caregiver would have been trained to observe changes in behavior and report these behaviors immediately to Margaret’s daughter and health care provider.

Fred’s caregiver would have known that changes in behavior and awareness are signs of potentially serious health issues. She would have known to immediately get help for Fred.

The report goes on to note that caregivers, working in individuals' homes, are generally alone and unsupervised. Often they are the only ones to see an isolated frail elderly person in the course of a day, a week or even longer. Without professional supervision or support, these caregivers are often the deciding factor between an individual living a healthy life filled with meaning and quality, and just barely getting by.

The organizations sponsoring this report are among those who are actively working to educate families about the importance of hiring only professionally trained caregivers. They are working hard to build awareness in families that training offers a qualitative difference in the outcome of the care.

They are also advocating for a national standard of training certification, with training content similar to that required by nursing assistants and home health aides.

We support all of these efforts. We believe, in fact, that quality, professional training is now within reach of every individual who wishes to enter the field of caregiving through the use of online training courses like our Caregiver Certification course (soon to be renamed the Personal Care Aide Certification).

It’s time for families to be educated and to understand the value of having a professionally trained caregiver. And to demand it for anyone providing care to their loved one.