May 17, 2020

Five 'alternative' jobs in the healthcare industry

Healthcare jobs
travel nursing
home healthcare
4 min
The healthcare industry offers job security
Written by Andy West Healthcare is a fast-growing field that offers lots of career opportunities and job security. A lot of people, however, think of a...

Written by Andy West

Healthcare is a fast-growing field that offers lots of career opportunities and job security.  A lot of people, however, think of a career in healthcare as those with the most visibility: working as a nurse at a hospital, nursing home, or doctor's office is most often what comes to mind.

But you might be surprised at the many different careers available in the healthcare industry.  Nurses are desperately needed in hospitals and retirement homes, of course, but for those who do not relish the thought, there are many other healthcare jobs to choose from. Here are five alternative healthcare jobs that shy away from the traditional doctor and nurse image.

Travel nursing

Qualified nurses can take advantage of the shortage of health care professionals if they are willing to travel to wherever they are needed. Travel nurses usually accept temporary contracts in various locations across the world, working for considerably higher pay in order to fill a specific need at a hospital or medical facility.  You go where you are needed most and in exchange you are well paid, with higher wages and bonuses and put up in a furnished housing or a housing stipend. If you love travel and are adventurous, this is a great option to see different places while meeting people around the world.

Research assistant

If you want to feel that your work is really helping to make a difference, then working as a research assistant allows you to contribute to the development of new medications, cures and our rapidly growing (but still insufficient) knowledge of the human body and its diseases. Research assistants may do everything from monitoring a study subject's vitals, to collecting self-reported data such as questionnaires and glucose readings. If you like to learn new things and analyse data, then this might be the perfect career.

Medical billing

Have you ever wondered who handles all the paperwork between the time you see the doctor and the time the insurance company (hopefully) pays the bill? Someone at your doctor's office is responsible for determining the correct billing codes and billing your insurance company. Although this is a potentially lucrative job in the health care industry, many people do not even know it exists because the billing process all happens in the background. This is a good position to consider for detail and task-oriented people who like working with numbers.

Pharmacy technician

Did you know you do not have to be an actual pharmacist in order to work in a pharmacy? A pharmacy technician typically helps the pharmacist do things like filling prescriptions, but because most of these jobs are in a retail setting, there is also a fair bit of customer service required. However, schooling requirements are much less rigorous, making this a great but obscure job for those who want a career in the health care industry, but do not want to have to work in a hospital setting. For those that love helping people and enjoy customer service, working as a pharmacy technician would be a great opportunity.

Home healthcare

Not every patient can make it in to see the doctor and staying in the hospital is not always a good solution. Many elderly or terminally ill patients choose to stay in their homes for a long-term illness, which means that they occasionally need a nurse to check in on them.  Home healthcare provides the same care the patient would get in the doctor's office or even in the hospital, except in the comfort of their own home and usually at a fraction of the cost. If you like flexible schedules and enjoy working with different people on a more personal level and deeper involvement this might the right fit.

As you can see, there are many healthcare jobs out there that fall outside the realm of nursing, but offer just as good pay and job security. For those that are interested in the benefits of working in the healthcare industry, but want to do something a little different than the usual nursing-type job, one of these careers might be perfect.

The Economic Report on the importance of travel nursing in the US:

Andy West is a freelance writer writing on various topics while he gets his healthcare degree online.

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Jun 19, 2021

Driving sustainability in medical device production

George I’ons
5 min
George I’ons, Head of Product Strategy and Insights at Owen Mumford Pharmaceutical Services on how technology is driving sustainability 

Environmental protection and stewardship are rapidly rising to the top of the corporate agenda and medical device businesses are no exception. The healthcare sectors of the United States, Australia, Canada, and England combined emit an estimated 748 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, an output greater than the carbon emissions of all but six nations worldwide. In order to curb this situation various European standards have been introduced. 

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE); Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS); Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) and the Energy Using Products (EuP) regulations have all significantly altered manufacturing processes, specific labelling, compliance with disposal restrictions, and creation of instructions for end-of-life management and recycling.

At the moment many medical devices are currently exempt from these regulations but several directives, including RoHS and WEEE, are in the process of being reviewed and could be applicable in future. This is especially relevant for devices that are ‘connected’ and have a digital monitoring component which then brings them under the regulatory purview of authorities that govern devices with electronic components.

Safety, Usability and Sustainability

While medical device manufacturers have been working to respond to increasing demand for environmental sustainability from the market, they also have to contend with a key element of their mission: to ensure safety and usability to healthcare workers and patients. Parenteral and other invasive devices are strictly regulated to help reduce the risk of Healthcare Acquired Infection which typically runs as high as 5% and 8% in most developed countries, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As a result, they typically contain disposable single-use plastic elements.

At the same time, many hospitals and purchasing organisations have started to recognise that sustainable purchasing practices play a pivotal role in reducing costs over time. Many GPOs have appointed and empowered Senior Directors of Environmentally Preferred Sourcing who are successfully implementing the sustainable purchasing business case. In addition global pharmaceutical companies are increasingly creating senior positions with sustainability objectives as key to the role.

Medical device disposal is a particularly burning issue; generally carried out through incineration in the EU, it typically releases nitrous oxide, as well as known carcinogens including polychlorinated biphenyls, furans and dioxins. Some of the strategies trialled by manufacturers to reduce waste matter destined to incineration include sterilisation and reprocessing.

Sterilisation, however, falls short on the environmental front, and may consume more energy and produce more emissions than incineration itself. In the United States for example, 50% of all sterile medical devices are sterilised with ethylene oxide but since this method releases harmful emissions, the US Food and Drug Administration is now encouraging the development of new methods or technologies. Many other established sterilisation methods use glutaraldehyde that is not only harmful to the environment but also tends to be regulated by strict usage and disposal rules such as COSSH guidelines.

Focus on Recycling

The outlook on recycling is changing significantly thanks to new research and technologies enabling, for example, monomer extraction. Recycled polymers can be broken down to their constituent monomers promoting an almost limitless recyclability of some polymers. In addition to this, Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), renewable polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) can be recycled several times without losing critical properties.

Reducing the impact of packaging can also significantly reduce the materials that need to be dealt with through either waste or recycling. Packaging manufacturers are decreasing packaging volume by favouring sealed trays instead of pouches, laser-etching instructions directly on to the tray where regulation permits it, or reducing the number of components required overall. In addition to this, for recycling plans to be successful it important to have a full understanding of the practices surrounding device use and to establish, where possible,  closed loop recycling systems that recover the waste materials from hospitals or patients and bring them back into the recycling process.

Sustainable Manufacturing: Technology and Research

Greater employment of fast degrading plastics or material from other sources is a key strategy to reduce harmful pollutants both at production and disposal stage. Bio-based materials can in fact offset the carbon emitted during processing as the monomer source grows, and a growing range of sources for bio based monomers -such as wood pulp or sugar cane- is available. However, when assessing the most suitable material for a part, the entire lifecycle of the product needs to be considered. For example: bio-degradable polymers can contaminate a recycling stream and emit methane when incinerated.

The use of environmentally friendly materials should also be supported by an increase in clean renewable energy sources. Lower energy consumption means fewer carbon emissions but also financial savings, making this an appealing measure for manufacturers. New technologies are proving a major gamechanger on this front, helping manufacturers marry their environmental stewardship with cost savings and efficiency.  3D printing, for example, can help develop optimum product moulds more quickly, refining production parameters to minimise raw materials volumes and maximising output productivity.

Similarly, ‘digital twin’ production software uses inline sensors to create a virtual, real-time mirror of the production environment to enable inline refinements. The objective is to achieve “zero defect”, waste-free manufacturing. In addition to this, LEAN manufacturing methodologies are already helping to optimise inventory management and reduce overproduction. 

Sustainability by Design

It is increasingly clear that effective environmental sustainability in the medical device sector cannot exist without a full view of the product life cycle from concept development, material selection, design and engineering to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, sales, use, and end-of-life disposal. These evaluations are typically made for factors such as manufacturing efficiency, time to market, or safety and regulatory compliance, packaging and transportation costs, but should be extended to energy efficiency and environmental impact by means such as life cycle analysis.  

In addition to this, with devices rapidly becoming more digitally connected, developers need to be aware that the costs of disposable electronics would simply not be viable, or indeed acceptable in the light of electronics disposal regulations. Design therefore should focus on creating a simple, repeatable interface between the two component sections so as not to impair the functionality or efficacy. As reducing waste and harmful emissions continues to exert businesses and governments globally, the medical devices industry cannot stand by. The environmental but also commercial implications of inaction are too serious and the array of solutions now available is exciting and diverse.

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