Role of the Health Educator in the Management of Rheumatic Diseases
The health educator (HE) participates in educating patients about lifestyle decisions and behavior that promote wellness in the context of rheumatic diseases. The HE’s role has been implemented at many different levels to improve health outcomes in rheumatology patients and other populations.
What Does the Health Educator Do?
- Educate patients directly and individually, work with small groups of patients, or educate on a larger scale with groups of patients or health systems
- Conduct conferences and participate in public health education, prevention, and wellness campaigns
- Work with children, adults, and elderly populations, incorporating family and patient support systems
Working with rheumatology patients, an HE may work in collaboration with the health care team to support the unique needs of the patient, including:
- Disease education
- Promoting a healthy lifestyle (diet and exercise)
- Providing information on associated issues such as pain management, coping strategies and support resources, or preventing disability
Regardless of venue or population, the goal of the HE is to increase knowledge and understanding of health conditions and health concerns to improve quality of life, improve disease management, positively impact health outcomes, and promote wellness.
According to the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC), there are seven areas of responsibility that help define the competencies and roles of HEs, including:
- Assessing needs, assets, and capacity for health education/promotion
- Planning health education/promotion
- Implementing health education/promotion
- Conducting evaluation and research related to health education/promotion
- Administering and managing health education/health promotion
- Serving as a health education/health promotion resource
- Communicating, promoting, and advocating for health, health education, and the profession
Other important responsibilities include:
- Developing education opportunities for patients and staff
- Developing health initiatives
- Improving communication between the patient and health care team
- Collaborating with the health care team to address and support patient needs and outcomes
- Participating in research on various levels
- Contributing to medical literature included in health journals and online publications
Where Does the Health Educator Work?
- Private businesses
- Schools, colleges, and universities
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Government offices
- Assisted living facilities and nursing homes
- Health-related associations and foundations (e.g., Arthritis Foundation, Lupus Foundation of America, Spondylitis Association)
What Kind of Training Does the Health Educator Have?
The training of an HE varies depending on where the HE works. HEs may attain undergraduate or graduate degrees in education, public heath, nursing, etc. The NCHEC has established criteria for certification of HEs as Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialists (MCHES). The certification examination is a competency-based tool used to measure possession, application, and interpretation of knowledge related to the seven areas of responsibility for HEs. A CHES is an individual who:
- Meets academic eligibility requirements
- Passes the written examination
- Commits to continuing education in health education
This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment of a medical or health condition.