Category Archives: Allied Health Program News

Pharmacy tech careers offer many possibilities, a chance to help

PIT PT AChanceToHelpBy Magaly Olivero

Earning an associate’s degree to become a pharmacy technician can lead to a broad range of career opportunities, whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time or considering a career change.

“One of the best things about being a pharmacy technician is that you have so many career paths to chose from,” said Uyen Thorstensen, a pharmacy technician at the University of Washington Medical Center and a member of the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians.

Pharmacy technicians assist licensed pharmacists by preparing and dispensing medications to patients or health care professionals. The profession calls for a combination of technical, interpersonal, creative problem solving and critical thinking skills.

“Most of all, I like that I can help people,” said Thorstensen, who has worked in retail, hospital and long-term health care settings for nearly two decades.

A career as a pharmacy technician offers many different benefits.


Career flexibility

Graduates with an associate’s degree focusing on the pharmacy technician profession have the flexibility to immediately enter the job market. Some pharmacy technicians decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy or other health care profession at a four-year college. They can earn a bachelor’s degree as a full-time student, or while working as a pharmacy technician.

Experts expect the need for pharmacy technicians will grow given the increased demand for prescription medications from the nation’s burgeoning aging population. Employment opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the national average for other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Professional stepping-stone

Pursuing a profession as a pharmacy technician is ideal for students who are unsure if they want to commit to a health care career that requires more advanced or rigorous training. “They can work as a pharmacy technician while they decide what they want to do,” she said. “Some remain in the field while others go on to become pharmacists, nurses or other health care professionals.”

Working as a pharmacy technician also appeals to working professionals who are considering a career change, she said. They may no longer welcome the physical demands of being a nurse, or their current profession faces an uncertain future given changes in the labor market.


Diverse workplace settings

Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of settings, so people can choose the environment that best suits their personality, desired work schedule and career goals. They work in community pharmacies, national retail pharmacies, long-term care facilities, hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, compounding pharmacies (where medicines are assembled on a large-scale) and mail order pharmacies.

“Pharmacy technicians who work in retail have a lot of personal interaction with patients,” said Thorstensen. “Those who work in clinical settings interact with prescribing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other pharmacy technicians.”


Intellectually challenging

“As a pharmacy technician, you’re constantly learning,” said Thorstensen. Pharmacy technicians must stay up-to-date with new medications that enter the market and changing government regulations about the use of certain drugs.

The profession calls for critical thinking skills to spot potential hazards when preparing and dispensing medications. “Being able to think on your feet and intervene if there’s a problem with a prescription is important,” she said. “It’s a very rewarding profession.”


Helping profession

Like many who enter the health care industry, pharmacy technicians often chose the profession because they enjoy helping and interacting with people. Those who work at retail and community pharmacies, for example, come into contact with a variety of patients who may be feeling stressed because they are ill or in pain. Pharmacy technicians can relieve some of this stress by educating patients about the proper use of their medications, answering questions about potential side effects, or demonstrating compassion. Something as simple as a smile or a willingness to listen can make a difference for a sick patient.

The right mix of opportunities for pharmacy tech students

By Jennifer NelsonPIT PT Opportunities

If helping mix dosages, measuring prescriptions, communicating with physicians to ensure safety standards and educating patients about treatments seems intriguing, a pharmacy technician degree may be right for you.

A school with comprehensive resources can make the process of becoming a pharmacy technician easier and prepare you for a rewarding career.

The Pennsylvania Institute of Technology has a great record of helping graduates find work as pharmacy technicians and proceed to four-year schools. PIT’s certificate program includes courses in communications, biology, chemistry, mathematics and humanities. But PIT also considers the whole student, not just the technical aspects of a job. The school helps students acquire softer skills and a solid understanding of the work environment.

Pharmacy technicians are in high demand and that is likely to continue as the population ages. Major pharmacy chains are adding stores and community drug stores, hospitals and even pharmaceutical manufacturers themselves are looking for skilled technicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that pharmacy technician jobs are expected to grow by more than 20 percent through 2022.

The middle 50 percent of professionals in the field earn between $24,320 and $35,810 per year, but with the right opportunities, there is room for career growth

PIT can help you map out a study plan that will give you the right skills for a job while also meeting individual scheduling needs. Many pharmacy tech students are embarking on second careers and returning to school. They must balance work, and sometimes family, responsibilities.


Do you have the right skills?

PIT can help you decide if you should go into the workforce immediately, or if you have the right qualities and skills to pursue a BA. The credits you earn at PIT are transferable, enabling you to earn your higher degree.


What will you learn at PIT?

PIT provides you with the knowledge to assign dosages, calculate and mix medications, fill and label prescriptions, compound drugs and prepare IV solutions. The PIT program also teaches how to track and manage patient healthcare prescription histories, drug inventory, and ordering from pharmaceutical manufacturers. You’ll work side by side with a pharmacist educating patients and providing health services.

A desire to inform patients about medication safety and usage, enjoyment in working with the public and a strong attention to detail are important qualities for success in the field.

What’s more, PIT prepares students for internships and externships – short assignments in the field via the school’s unique parallel learning method. In parallel learning, students can fast track their degree by acquiring skills and degree classes at the same time, as well providing flexible schedules and experienced instructors who have working knowledge.

The school also provides academic advisors, job services and a range of other resources. All of the above has placed PIT at the forefront of pharmacy technician programs.

Weighing pharmacy technician job prospects in Pennsylvania and beyond

PIT PT JobProspectsInPABy Jennifer Nelson

There are idealistic reasons for entering the healthcare profession, particularly in Pennsylvania: A desire to help people’s lives, a purposeful and fulfilling wish to educate patients on medication safety, and to make a difference for those in your community.

But there are also practical reasons. Pennsylvania and neighboring states in the Middle Atlantic part of the U.S. need healthcare professionals, including pharmacy technicians and other support healthcare workers. Pennsylvania’s aging population has spurred increasing demand for healthcare services.

According to data compiled by the online publication TheStreet, Pennsylvania has the sixth oldest population in the country. More than 16 percent of the state’s residents are 65 or older, and the median age is above 40.  TheStreet based its totals largely on information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, only 12.5 percent of residents in California, which has the sixth youngest population, are older than 65.

The number is growing, too. “The 65 and over age group is expected to increase by 29.2 percent,” said Mark Ryan, Deputy Director of the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), which provides revenue projections for use in the state budget process. “The large increase implies significant growth for general healthcare programs and long term care services covered under Medical Assistance.”

This older population is also spending a larger percentage of their income on healthcare and prescriptions.

A recent job search on the employment website generated more than 1,000 job openings for pharmacy technicians in Pennsylvania. They included postings from Temple University’s Health System in Philadelphia, a long-term care facility in Northampton, Hershey and Pittsburgh.

The number of opportunities is likely to increase over the next decade. Openings for pharmacy tech positions will grow by more than 20 percent (faster than average) through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (There are currently more than 335,000 pharmacy tech job openings nationwide).


The need for healthcare support professionals

The need for healthcare support occupations like pharmacy technicians has risen as more families and healthcare organizations look for efficient, less costly ways to treat aging relatives, according to the Pennsylvania’s Economic & Budget Report for Fiscal Years 2013-14 through 2018-19. The Affordable Care Act is likely to place an even greater focus on managing healthcare costs.

Technicians can perform many of the same tasks as pharmacists at a lower salary.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the pharmacy technician earns a median income of $29,320 annually or $14.10 per hour. A full-fledged pharmacist can earn more than $100,000 in the Pittsburgh area, according to, a respected source on compensation. analyzes larges volumes of data to calculate compensation ranges for different jobs.

Most technicians are working in retail.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 73 percent of pharmacy technicians work in chain pharmacies, community drug and grocery stores, 18 percent work in hospitals and 9 percent work in other facilities like outpatient clinics and for mail order pharmacy companies.


Becoming a pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technicians work with pharmacists to help count, dose and package medication. They may also inventory and order drugs from manufacturers, as well as maintain patient medication histories. Job duties may vary slightly within particular pharmacies. Compounding medications may also be part of the pharmacy technician duties.

The two-year degree certification program at PIT covers these skills and others. PIT graduates move on to jobs with leading pharmacy retailers, healthcare providers, long-term care facilities and pharmaceutical companies. They also frequently find jobs at mom-and-pop drug stores, which can play a central role in communities.

Pennsylvania pharmacy techs may become nationally certified and must maintain that certification with 20 units of continuing education (CE) every two years according to the Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy. However, no licensure is required for pharmacy technicians.

Changes at pharmacies will spur demand for skilled technicians

PIT PT DemandForSkillBy Jason Gray

Walk-in clinics, on-demand vaccinations and screening services are appearing at an increasing number of drug stores and pharmacies nationwide. The expansion into basic health care services gives consumers a new community hub for routine care.

This new business model has meant an expanding role for pharmacy technicians, and while the supply of technicians has been able to keep pace with demand, many pharmacies are seeking individuals with experience and great skills. That underscores the importance of a sound education for pharmacist technicians – one that is steeped in the fundamentals of the trade. Great skills can be a springboard to career advancement.

Pharmacy technicians have traditionally been the licensed pharmacist’s assistants. They speak with patients, help dispense prescriptions and perform a range of daily, administrative tasks. As health care reform and co-located health clinics have changed the pharmacy business model, the pharmacy technician role has changed, as well.

There are about 1,600 clinics serving 20 million patient visits across the United States, according to the Harvard Business Review. By co-locating with existing neighborhood pharmacies and drug stores, they provide a convenient, fast and low-cost alternative to primary care physician offices.

Pharmacy chains see a potential benefit for their business. They use the clinics to encourage patients to fill prescriptions with them, and ideally continue to use that pharmacy for other needs.


A bigger role in patient treatment

Most walk-in pharmacies use nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to see patients for routine care and minor illnesses. Pharmacy technicians who work at the host pharmacy will often play a supporting role, particularly in recording and archiving data. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half all pharmacy technicians work at retail drug stores and pharmacies.

Adding clinic services means pharmacy employees are adding clinic-specific duties to their normal workload, which was already changing in recent years. Health care reform acts require electronic health records system usage across nearly all health care providers and facilities. Pharmacy technicians often enter information into these systems and inform the pharmacist on duty if there are changes or alerts in the patient’s records.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, a national organization of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, says pharmacy technicians will play an increasingly vital role in ensuring pharmacies are well-integrated in the overall health information technology system. “Such roles require pharmacy technicians to gain expertise in information technology systems, including knowledge of interfaces, computer management techniques, problem resolution, and database maintenance,” according to the ASHP.

Aging demographics in the United States will also drive more job growth and opportunities for pharmacy technicians. “A larger amount of middle-aged and elderly people – who typically take more prescription drugs than those who are younger – will drive the need for technicians in all practice surroundings,” according to the ASHP.


A need for more experience

A 2013 ASHP study showed that there was a 4.2 percent vacancy rate for pharmacy technicians, and a 2.1 percent gap for pharmacists. “The survey indicates that even though the number of pharmacist positions continues to increase in hospitals and health systems, the supply of pharmacists is able to keep up with the demand,” said Douglas J. Scheckelhoff, M.S., ASHP vice president of practice advancement.

But many pharmacist and pharmacy technician candidates are short of experience. “A majority of pharmacy directors continues to perceive moderate to severe shortages of pharmacy managers (60.6 percent) and experienced pharmacy technicians (56.1 percent),” according to the ASHP study authors.

“With technicians assuming a greater role, ASHP advocates that they be required to complete more accredited training and certification programs,” Scheckelhoff said. “This way employers can be assured that their technicians have the foundational knowledge and training and have shown that they are competent. Currently, state regulations are inconsistent with regards to training and certification requirements.”

As innovations like pharmacy walk-in clinics continue to expand, demand for skilled pharmacy technicians will grow. But people who choose a pharmacy technician career will need to ensure that they have comprehensive training and the flexibility to keep up with changes in the healthcare system. 

Right prescriptions: Five key qualities of a pharma technician

PIT PT Career SkillsBy Magaly Olivero

A successful career as a pharmacy technician requires a combination of technical and interpersonal skills to deliver safe and effective patient care.

As assistants to licensed pharmacists, pharmacy technicians help dispense medication to customers or health care professionals. They work in many settings, including national retail pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, community pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufactures and distributors.

Job opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for other occupations nationwide, according to national labor statistics. Graduates with an associate degree focusing on the pharmacy technician profession have the flexibility to immediately enter the job market. They may also pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college.

Successful pharmacy technicians posses the following qualities:


Attention to detail

Pharmacy technicians must fill prescriptions, mix medications, assign dosages, prepare intravenous solutions and more. All these tasks require an unprecedented attention to detail to ensure the highest quality and safety standards. Critical thinking skills, along with a strict adherence to protocol, are key. Making careless mistakes when dispensing medication can pose serious and potentially life-threatening consequences to the physical and mental health of a patient.


Communication skills

Strong interpersonal skills are critical to the success of a pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians must effectively communicate with many, different people, including patients and family members, pharmacists, prescribing doctors, and other health care professionals. Those who work in a retail setting must be adept at communicating with and educating customers to ensure they properly understand their medication regimen. Pharmacy technicians who work in a health care setting must be comfortable collaborating with a wide range of colleagues.



Demonstrating compassion is an essential component of being a pharmacy technician, especially for those who work with customers in a retail environment. It’s important to recognize when patients may be under duress. Perhaps someone is dealing with a serious diagnosis, worrying about how they will pay for their medications, or struggling to manage debilitating side effects. Each of these encounters may require a different and sensitive response. The right response may have a great benefit to patient care.


Mathematical skills

Preparing prescriptions correctly – such as determining the correct strength of a solution or the usual dosage of a medication – may require making many different mathematical calculations. Pharmacy technicians must be accurate and precise when it comes to calculating, weighing and measuring chemicals as they prepare medications and solutions. Adding an extra zero to a prescription can turn a helpful treatment into a dangerous one. Pharmacy technicians must ensure that medications are filled correctly every time.


Ethical behavior

A commitment to ethical behavior is important because pharmacy technicians have access to confidential information about patients’ medical history. They also must uphold standards of practice and legal restrictions associated with dispensing medication.

How medical billing became a great career

MBCCareerBy Bob Weinstein

With the passage of new federal guidelines that require health care providers to keep their patient information on secure computer databases, the electronic medical records market has been growing rapidly.

The new guidelines — added to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 2013 — have dramatically increased the demand for medical billers and computer coders, also called medical records technicians and health information technicians.

With spending on software for electronic medical records and electronic health records (EMR/HER) projected to grow to about $3.8 billion in 2015 from about $2 billion in 2009, according to a study by market research firm IDC, medical billers and coders have become vital players in most health care and related businesses.

“Simply, medical billers and coders deal with people’s money,” said Rosa Rossello, founder and CEO of Pennsylvania Medical Billing Inc., in the Philadelphia suburb of Southampton, Pa. “When patients go to a medical provider — physician, physical or occupational therapist, for example — the provider sends the patients’ bills to us for processing so that they can be paid. We process and submit physicians’ bills to insurance companies for payment.”

From that point on, the medical billing process gets complicated, Rossello said.

“We deal with a few different coding systems, because every medical procedure and treatment has its own code,” she said. “Once the codes are entered on standardized insurance forms or claims, and then submitted to patients’ insurance companies for reimbursement, health care providers can be paid.”

Since medical billing and coding became a standard bookkeeping procedure in the early 1980s, the medical billing process has become very structured and sophisticated.


Standardizing and streamlining procedures

Before medical providers were required to transfer all their medical records to computers, patients’ records were coded and stored in cumbersome paper files. With the new HIPAA guidelines, the federal government’s goal is to standardize and streamline all recording procedures, Rossello said.

As the electronic medical records industry grew, “the medical billing and coding process also became increasingly complicated, because the rules and procedures are always changing, and medical records and coding software is constantly being updated,” Rosello said.

That constant pressure on the medical information industry to update and standardize its practices has led to medical billers and coders becoming critical cogs in the nation’s health care industry.


Highly specialized field

Medical billers and coders are employed by health care providers, insurance companies and billing companies of all sizes. Their job titles vary according to their particular functions. Large health care providers tend to separate the functions and hire both medical billers and medical coders.

“When medical procedures are performed, coders look at patients’ charts and assign codes to each procedure,” Rossello said. “They have nothing to do with the billing process.”

Pennsylvania Medical Billing combines the coding and billing functions. To reflect their broad job responsibilities, Rossello calls her billing professionals “billing coordinators,” because they have a hands-on knowledge of the billing, coding and collection process.

“We’re involved in the entire process, from patients’ encounters with health care providers to getting providers paid,” Rossello said.

Pennsylvania Medical Billing’s clients are smaller medical practices, such as family practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists, physical therapists and chiropractors.

While medical coding is a specialty all its own, Rossello said there is a greater demand for medical billers, because they’re required to have a working knowledge of both the billing and coding processes.


Combination of skills

It takes a few different skill sets to be a successful medical biller, with analytical skills at the top of the list, Rossello said.

“It also takes organizational skills, because medical billers have to be able to multitask and keep track of many things at the same time,” she said.

Along with understanding medical terminology, anatomy and medical-billing procedures and terminology, medical billers also have to be comfortable with computers, especially word processing, database management and spreadsheets.

Good communication skills are also important, Rosello said, because billers must be able to explain charges to patients so that the patients understand what they are paying for.


Educational qualifications

Medical billing and coding is taught at technical vocational schools and community colleges. Rossello prefers candidates who have a medical billing and coding certificate from an accredited school, along with certification from either the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) or from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

To learn more about certification requirements, along with information about the medical billing/coding field, visit the AAPC website and The American Health Information Management Association website.


Bob Weinstein is a workplace journalist, syndicated columnist and author of 13 books.

Medical billing and coding poised for growth

By Morgan Chilson

The medical billing and coding job market is expected to grow explosively in the next eight years, offering opportunities and good pay for allied health professionals.



The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected job growth of 22 percent between 2012 and 2022 for medical records and health information technicians, an increase that it labeled “much faster than average for all occupations.” The demand for qualified billing and coding professionals is expected to continue on that upward trend as the population ages.


A growing demand

“An aging population will need more medical tests, treatments, and procedures. This will mean more claims for reimbursement from insurance companies,” BLS reported. “Additional records, coupled with widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs) by all types of healthcare providers, could lead to an increased need for technicians to organize and manage the associated information in all areas of the healthcare industry.”

The accelerated growth in medical and billing jobs is evident in membership in the American Association of Professional Coders, a professional association that offers training and certification globally. From 2008, when the economy struggled with a recession, the organization grew from 60,000 members to 141,000 members today, according to its website.


Average salaries in the field

An AAPC survey from 2012 shows the average salary for a certified professional medical coders was $47,796. Individuals with a hospital outpatient specialty can earn upwards of $56,000. Those who continue their education and receive a certification for Professional Medical Auditor can see salaries nearing $60,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported lower average salaries, which include those medical billers and coders who are not AAPC certified. The annual median wage in 2012 was $34,160, which means half of those working in the field earned less than that amount and half earned more.


Professional growth opportunities

Other organizations also offer certifications that can be beneficial for people exploring the billing and coding field. BLS reported that such certifications include Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR).

Specialization within the medical billing and coding profession is possible. The BLS reported an expected need for cancer registrars, for instance.

In addition, medical billing and coding experience can also be a strong base to pursue other health-care degrees. Medical and health services management, for example, requires a bachelor’s degree. People in this profession earned a median income of $88,580 in 2012, according to the BLS website.


Morgan Chilson is a business writer who specializes in health and science topics.

Five reasons to become a medical assistant

MedAssistantReasonBy Michael Kerr


There’s never been a better time to be a medical assistant. Health care-related fields are set to add 15.6 million new jobs between 2012 and 2022 — far more than any other sector of the economy, according to a December 2013 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A medical assistant handles the clinical and administrative duties of a physician’s office. As a medical assistant, you would be responsible for interviewing patients, taking vital signs and filling out patients’ charts. Depending on your training, you may also prepare treatment rooms, give injections and perform certain diagnostic or laboratory tests. Medical assistants may handle scheduling, billing and bookkeeping tasks as well.


The five best reasons for becoming a medical assistant are:


1. Job opportunities

While employment in the entire health care sector is projected to grow 10.8 percent over the decade, medical assistants are on track for 29 percent job growth. To put those numbers in perspective, nearly 163,000 of the 15.6 million health care jobs created between 2012 and 2022 are projected to be for medical assistant positions — many more than the average for all other professions, according to the BLS.


2. Relative ease of entry

In most states you don’t need any special education to become a medical assistant. While people with a high school diploma can learn on the job, most medical offices prefer to hire medical assistants with at least some postsecondary education or a certification. Accredited programs are available at many universities, community colleges and vocational or technical schools, and they usually take about a year to complete. Certifications are also available from organizations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants. Programs feature classes and labs that include instruction in anatomy and medical terminology.


3. Fulfilling work

If you enjoy working with people, few professions are as gratifying as that of a medical assistant. While the job can be fast-paced and challenging, the opportunity to help patients is one of the main reasons that people cite for choosing the career. Medical assistants greet people at the front desk, take patients’ vital signs and even remove sutures. It’s a job in which you can truly make a difference in people’s lives — and what’s better than that?


4. Job security

Along with the massive employment growth expected in the field in the next decade, medical assistants can count on a level of job security unprecedented in most other fields. Although the median pay is lower than that of many other health care professionals ($30,780 per year, according to the BLS), most medical assistants can typically expect to work a full-time, 40-hour week. Because many clinics and offices have weekend hours as well, you may be able to negotiate with your employer for a schedule that fits your lifestyle.


5. Personal and professional growth

As physicians’ offices and clinics switch to electronic health records over the next few years, medical assistants’ jobs will continue to evolve. Medical assistants will increasingly be responsible for analyzing electronic data and handling technical issues related to software and digital security. Many doctors offer their employees opportunities for continuing education as well. For those with drive and ambition, a career as a medical assistant can lead to other well-paying professions in the health care industry.


Michael Kerr writes about health care, technology and business for publications including, Portland Business Journal and Bplans, among many others.

How computer skills can translate to the medical office

By Jennifer Nelson

As medical offices continue to shift toward all-electronic systems for billing, insurance claims and health records, personnel with computer skills will be highly desirable.
Today’s medical offices handle administrative and management duties while the doctors and health professionals care for patients. What kind of computer skills do you need in a medical office? Health care personnel set appointments, receive patients, manage health records and take care of billing and insurance — all electronically. Specialties also include medical coding and medical transcription.


Computer skills needed

Employees who can type quickly and accurately and who know or can easily learn state-of-the-art software and computerized medical billing, coding and scheduling will have the upper hand in being hired for a position in the medical office place.

Skills such as handling written communications, writing reports, managing databases, scheduling appointments and processing billing translate straight to the medical office. Health care staff also need to be familiar with the use of basic word processing and spreadsheet software, such as WordPerfect, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.

With the numerous changes in the health care industry due to federal incentives for the conversion to electronic health care information systems through 2016, medical insurance personnel with excellent computer skills will be vital to the operation of hospitals, clinics and private physicians’ practices.

Did you know that the median salary for medical service managers — those who run or manage a clinic, a hospital department or a physician’s office — was $88,580 in 2012? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics, medical-service-manager jobs are projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, due to requirements of the Affordable Care Act, increased numbers of people with health insurance, and growing demand for medical services from the aging baby-boomer.

Likewise, positions for medical record personnel and health information technicians are expected to grow at the same rate. Those positions earned a median salary of $36,490 in metropolitan Philadelphia in 2013.


Doctors, nurses, billers and coders

Wherever medical services are performed, health care support staff — such as medical coders and billers — are also employed, including nursing care facilities, short-term rehabilitative hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, physical therapy clinics and nonprofit health care clinics.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ report on National Health Expenditure Projections for 2010-2020 report projected that, by 2020, national health spending is expected to reach $4.6 trillion.

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve and expand, trained, professional health care support staff and managers will be needed to meet the challenges of keeping the health care industry running smoothly.


Jennifer Nelson is a Florida-based writer who has written for WebMD, MSNBC, CNN and others.

Allied health professionals provide critical components to patient care

By Morgan Chilson

While doctors and nurses may be the most visible members of America’s health care workforce, allied health professionals actually make up more than 60 percent of positions, filling vital roles in medical facilities, laboratories, doctors’ offices and in-home care, according to the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions.


What an allied health professional does

People categorized as allied health professionals work in a wide variety of positions, from medical billing and coding technicians to medical assistants, pharmacy technicians and dieticians, to name just a few. Such positions require post-secondary education, either through a certification program or an associate’s degree. Many of these healthcare jobs offer excellent career opportunities and often make leading lists such as College Quest’s “The Top High-Paying Jobs with an Associate’s Degree.

A wide-open job market for these health care specialties is encouraging for students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that the health care field will add the most jobs to the labor market through 2022.


What employers are looking for

For Mercy Health System’s Director of Laboratory Services Geralyn Fattore, the need for qualified allied health professionals is a fact of her everyday world. The employees at Mercy Health have a variety of educational levels, with many holding certifications or associate’s degrees before choosing to go on to complete a bachelor’s degree, or even further, Fattore said. Employees will often be hired with a medical-assistant or phlebotomist certification, and then they discover an affinity for the work and continue studying for an associate’s degree to become medical laboratory technicians.

Fattore herself started with an associate’s degree as a medical laboratory technician and then returned to school for her bachelor’s degree.

Using phlebotomists or medical assistants as an example, Fattore said professionals at Mercy Health operate in a variety of settings, drawing blood in laboratories, on the hospital floors or through a program that travels to area nursing homes. People who excel in such professions tend to be customer oriented.

“When I interview candidates, it’s basically about customer service,” she said. “In the hospital, it’s customer service, just like if you’re going to buy a pair of shoes at Macy’s. I look for someone who is upbeat and happy and professional. That’s very important to us because customer service is very important.”

Such traits are even more important than experience, Fattore said, pointing out that skills can be refined in the health care setting.

“I feel like you can always teach the skill; a lot of these kids come out and don’t have experience, and I’m really a big advocate in giving these candidates a chance, because we were all there at one point,” she said. “You can perfect skills but you can’t change their attitude and their personality.”


A day in the life of an allied health professional

Eric Schmidt is a pharmacy technician at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia. Every day he uses people skills and the health care skills he learned during post-secondary education.

“We work hand-in-hand with the pharmacists once the orders are entered by the doctors,” Schmidt said. “It’s rewarding. And it’s definitely a fast pace, and I like being busy. You’re overloaded, but it makes the day go fast. You get to work with all the different departments, which is interesting.”

During his day, Schmidt will help stock the carts used during emergency situations, such as when someone is in respiratory distress. He stocks the Pyxis Medstations (automated medication dispensers) and makes up IV bags used to infuse patients in the hospital.

Schmidt, who said he wished he had gone on to pharmacy school, said it’s fulfilling to know he’s helping people who “are the most vulnerable at that point in time.”

The fulfilling aspect of the work draws many people to allied health professions, Fattore said. As an administrator, she said, she misses patient contact tremendously, and so she makes an effort to visit with patients, which “brings you back to why we’re all in this profession.”

“It’s about the patients and it is very fulfilling,” she said. “You don’t realize sometimes what people are going through, how sick they are….Sometimes people might need the simplest thing, and you give them a smile and they’re happy.”


Morgan Chilson is a business writer who specializes in health and science topics.