The path to a health and human services career & overcoming the challenges

Choosing a degree path that satisfies your personal and professional goals can be daunting Did you know that you can study a health and human services degree 100% online? Some programs offer courses in case management, psychology, ethics, and more. Everything you need to kickstart a rewarding career in one of the fastest-growing fields is just one click away. Health and human services are an expansive industry with many career opportunities. There is a demand for compassionate, communicative, and culturally competent participants in the public health and human services sector. In this article, we will discuss the advantages of studying for your degree online, the different career opportunities, and the challenges you may face in this rewarding career.

One great benefit of studying a health and human services degree online is that you can learn at your own pace. Learning at your own pace will allow you the freedom to absorb pertinent information tailored to meet your individual learning needs. Another benefit of studying for a health and human services degree online is that you can do it all from the comfort of your home. Many online resources will assist you in creating the perfect at-home workspace to be an efficient online student. You will still have access to teachers, classmates, and institutional resources committed to helping you succeed. An online degree provides a flexible schedule for those with a family or full-time job.

What are Health and Human Services? 

The great philosopher and activist, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This is the perfect characterization of the health and human services industry. These professionals who dedicate their lives to service, strive to improve the lives of others.

Ethics and diversity serve as a foundation for health and human services. Ethics can be defined as the moral philosophy of right and wrong. Diversity is the idea of including people from all different socio-cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Professionals in the human services field foster a positive impact by ethically advocating for a diverse group of people within their community. They take on the challenging task of supporting the most vulnerable. The goal is to influence constructive interactions among groups to improve outcomes. Without this field, there would be a significant lack in mental health, substance abuse, and child welfare services.

Health and Human Services Career Opportunities 

From a social worker implementing a community outreach program to a guidance counselor assisting a student with their college application, health and human service professionals are on the front lines of the community. The health and human services industry is broad and it allows you to explore your passion for helping others in a wide range of exciting career opportunities. Those who complete their health and human services degree online may serve as social workers, educators, counselors, etc. This is not a one-size-fits-all career path. With a health and human services online degree, you will have the freedom to choose the career that suits you best.

  • Social Work: Social workers help families and children overcome adversity. Professionals in this field may work for hospitals, governmental agencies, or non-profit organizations. There are many different subcategories of social work including medical social workers, criminal justice social workers, gerontological social workers, and more.
  • Substance Abuse: As a health and human services professional, you may choose to serve your community as a drug and alcohol counselor. These professionals dedicate their lives to helping people overcome addiction. As a substance abuse counselor, you will have the opportunity to work in a hospital, rehab facility, or wellness center.
  • Community Outreach: Many programs assist the vulnerable population in acquiring housing, employment, and other basic needs. As a health and human services professional, you will have the privilege of working closely with these organizations to improve the lives of people in that community. In some cases, you may assist victims of domestic abuse find shelter You may also help at-risk youth by operating an after-school program. There are a variety of opportunities for community outreach with a health and human services degree.
  • Child Welfare: You will learn the fundamentals of the cognitive development of children while studying for your degree in health and human services. This knowledge will prepare you to face the challenging task of advocating for children and families. Children usually don’t have the skills to communicate their needs, as a child-welfare social worker you will be trained to advocate for children during times of great change
  • Counseling: There is a growing demand for mental health and wellness counselors. The negative stigma surrounding mental health services is rapidly dissipating. Many people are seeking outside counseling to improve the quality of their lives. With a health and human services degree, you will have the opportunity to counsel people through their most difficult times.

Challenges Health and Human Services Professionals face

A career in health and human services can be challenging due to the diverse nature of the people involved. Compassion, communication, and patient-centeredness should be present to mitigate complications that may arise when dealing with people from different socio-cultural backgrounds. It is important to treat each person individually to meet their unique needs. However, there are a few barriers you may face when trying to accomplish this goal. Language barriers include a difference in native tongue between the practitioner and the client/patient. Cultural obstacles indicate a contrast in the traditional customs of the participating parties. Personal differences take into consideration the intellectual, creative, and conative dissimilarities between people. As a human services professional, it will be your responsibility to advocate for your client/patient regardless of the barriers you may face.

As a health and human services professional, you will have the privilege of interacting with individuals who speak different languages.  It is necessary to understand and overcome this barrier to be a successful health and human services professional. For example, you may be a native English speaker, but your patient may only be fluent in Mandarin. In this instance, it will be beneficial to determine the best way to communicate while still respecting lingual differences. Fortunately, technological advances have provided easier access to language translational services.

It is important to be comfortable working with a diverse group of people.  As human services personnel, you will probably encounter individuals with different cultural beliefs. Cultural differences can be frustrating without the proper background knowledge and training.  For example, some cultures don’t believe in blood transfusions. As a social worker in a hospital setting, you will work as a liaison between the patient and clinician. This will allow you to communicate vital information. Cultural awareness is crucial in sustaining an environment where all feel welcome to receive the help they need.

The issues described above can usually be avoided by following these three basic principles: show compassion, communicate clearly, and perform patient-centered care. One important matter to realize when starting a career in health and human services is that we all have different needs and expectations. As a health and human services professional, it will be your job to advocate for all members of society regardless of these differences.

To be compassionate is to be consciously aware of someone else’s suffering and compelled to provide relief. Compassion is arguably the most crucial quality for anyone working in the public health or human services sector. Without compassion, there is no understanding. The sure will and desire to relieve someone’s suffering is the key component to being an effective public health/ human services professional. When working with patients or clients who have problems that you may not have experienced, you must approach them with compassion and a willingness to help. When people seek out assistance from counselors, educators, nurses, etc. they’re expecting someone with enough knowledge and expertise to help them resolve their problems compassionately. We’ve all been in situations where our healthcare provider or high school guidance counselor provided a level of care and understanding that helped us get through the hardship we may have been experiencing. We’ve all also been in situations where those same people did not demonstrate compassion and we may remember how hopeless that made us feel. In general, those with a health and human services degree should be intentional about providing hope to their clients by demonstrating compassion.

A great example of a human services professional who has to consistently show compassion is a high school guidance counselor. Participants in this noble profession often help students navigate difficult situations; possibly issues that the guidance counselor has never faced. In this case, the guidance counselor must receive adequate training and education that will help him or her demonstrate compassion.

Patient-Centeredness is a collaborative approach that focuses on the clinical aspect of healthcare as well as the emotional well-being of the patient. The main focus of patient-centered care is to improve individual health outcomes. The goal is to align the mission of the healthcare provider with the patient. This approach covers a patient’s clinical, emotional, spiritual, and financial needs. The patient is treated as a partner who is actively involved in every decision as opposed to a passive participant. Another interesting aspect of the patient-centered care model is that family involvement is strongly encouraged. This approach advocates for family interaction not to be limited to simply visiting hours, they believe that family members should have full access to their loved ones. There are several benefits to patient-centered care including patient satisfaction, job gratification among providers, improved healthcare outcomes and increased access to healthcare.

In the case of language or cultural barriers, one can initiate patient-centered care by seeking outside resources for assistance. For example, many healthcare facilities are equipped with telephonic interpreters on a device commonly called “the blue phone.” This advanced telephone provides translational services that help alleviate language barriers. If this resource is not available to you check for other supportive resources in your organization, such as an in-person interpreter.

Excellent communication is a key competency in the health and human services field. Communication is often described as the human connection; it’s how we understand one another. The ability to communicate your ideas is the basis of success in any career. As a human services professional, you will be faced with the challenge of communicating with a diverse group of people regularly. You will need to have above-average communication skills. Not only is it important to effectively communicate with clients/patients, but it is also important to know how to communicate with co-workers. Health and human service careers are collaborative in every sense of the word.

  • Communication in Healthcare: Many studies have indicated a strong correlation between communication and the quality of care (1) Choosing a career in healthcare is agreeing to communicate with a diverse group of people daily. Effective healthcare communication has the potential to improve healthcare outcomes. Poor healthcare communication may promote life-threatening complications.
  • Communication in Social Work: Social workers play an essential role in society. They empower the community by helping individuals and/or families improve their lives. Social workers play a pivotal role in the development of programs and initiatives that improve the lives of their clients. Good communication skills are needed for community outreach. Social workers also have to work with a diverse group of people who are experiencing an array of personal issues. Social workers need to understand the importance of good communication to improve the lives of their clients. Poor communication can be detrimental in a social work career as the safety and well-being of their clients are dependent on the communicative skills of the social worker.
  • Communication in Education: Communication is the basis of education, and it goes beyond the classroom. School administrators and counselors are human services professionals that should be well-versed in effective communication skills. In this career, professionals must communicate with students, parents, and peers. Good communication could assist students to excel in their academic careers, involve parents in the education process, and mitigate social-emotional disturbances through counseling. Poor communication in education can leave learning disabilities unaddressed, exacerbate social-emotional issues, or prevent students from taking advantage of life-changing opportunities.

With the appropriate communication skills, health and human services professionals can overcome any cultural or linguistic barrier. In combination with compassion and patient-centeredness, constructive communication can have a powerful impact on the lives of patients, students, and families. There are several complications and undesirable outcomes that can result from poor communication. To be successful in the health and human services industry, you should be well-versed in the best ways to effectively communicate with your target audience.

Opportunities to change the world are plentiful for people who possess a degree in health and human services. The main objective of a career in the human services industry is to be on the frontline of a growing and prosperous community. Those who have a career in this industry are dedicated to curating a meaningful impact on the lives of the people in the community they serve. Any career in the health and human services will be rewarding. The greatest reward is the improvement of someone else’s life. It is an amazing opportunity to have a purpose outside of yourself. Health and human services professions are for the “givers” and “helpers” of the world. You can make the world a better place one person at a time. If you choose to work in this industry you will not be concerned about being bored or chained to a desk because there are countless opportunities.

Although a health and human services career is rewarding, it does not come without challenge. Professionals in this sector are required to be somewhat of a “people person.” This career requires you to interact with individuals from all types of different socio-cultural backgrounds. It will be necessary to understand the cultural differences between yourself and the clients that you serve. You may face cultural and language barriers. Regardless of the obstacles you may encounter, advocating for your client should remain your top priority. In general, we should all respect each other for our differences. People who choose to work in this field should have enough compassion to deal with the difficult task of connecting with people who are experiencing special circumstances. There is no cookie-cutter method to handling the unique situations that will be presented to you as a human services professional. It will be up to you to treat each patient individually and meet their distinctive needs. Compassion, communication, and patient-centeredness are sure-fire methods to accomplish this goal.

In the words of the late John F. Kennedy, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” The health and human services industry is for people who want to make a difference.