5 Exciting Healthcare Careers You've Never Heard Of

The healthcare field is made up of much more than doctors and nurses. If you'd prefer to do things differently, perhaps one of these more unusual healthcare roles is for you.

1. Dance Therapist: Treat Patients Through Dance

The medical world has long recognized the connection between the body and the mind. It might not be a very well-known profession, but dance therapists have actually used dance movements to treat a variety of impairments since the 1940s. Children, adults, and senior citizens suffering from a range of emotional, physical, and psychological problems including Parkinson's disease, eating disorders, trauma, and autism have been proven to benefit from dance therapy.

Dance therapists work in a variety of settings including classrooms, nursing homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. They typically hold a master's degree from a program approved by the American Dance Therapy Association and extensive dance experience. They must be patient and personable, as dealing with people with special needs can be challenging. And of course, a love of dancing is a must.

On average, dance therapists make $40,000 a year. This is on the low-end of master's level therapist careers, but the ability to dance on the job is a perk which many believe money can't buy.

2. Clinical Ethicist: Decide What's Right and Wrong

Health professionals face ethical dilemmas every day. Which patients deserve treatment first when doctors are in short supply? Should insurance companies pay for experimental, potentially life-saving treatments? And what about assisted suicide, cloning, and stem cell research? Often there are no right and wrong answers to these issues, so healthcare organizations look to clinical ethicists to ensure decisions follow guidelines set by official bodies.

Clinical ethicists might serve on a hospital review board or lecture at medical schools. Some might also conduct research to progress ethical debates and help develop government policy. Other clinical ethicists are employed by insurance companies and physician group practices. They are typically trained in a related field, such as medicine, nursing, philosophy, law, public health, or social science. Many clinical ethicists combine these duties with work as a physician or nurse. Their salary depends on the full range of their duties, so can vary widely between $40,000 to more than $150,000.

3. Medical Librarian: Become an Information Gateway

Stack of medical books

Image via Flickr by Adrian Clark

Medical librarians might never pick up a syringe or scalpel, but they're key members of the healthcare community. They help physicians, allied health professionals, and medical researchers stay up to date with new developments in specialty medical areas and liaise with patients and other members of the public looking for health information they can trust.

Medical librarians work in a range of environments where current medical information is required, such as colleges and universities, hospitals, consumer health libraries, research centers, foundations, insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, and government agencies. The salary of a medical librarian depends on the type and location of their institution, their level of responsibility, their length of employment, and their technical skills. According to the Medical Library Association, junior medical librarians typically make $49,060. This annual salary increases to an average of $66,622 with experience. Library director positions are much more lucrative with average salaries ranging from $52,293 to $116,200.  

4. Expert Witness: Take the Stand for Justice

Some doctors that tire of the night shifts and fast pace of the emergency room decide to leave it all behind to become an expert witness. Expert witnesses are called to testify to medical matters in criminal cases and malpractice suits.

For example, an expert witness might determine whether the injuries a car crash victim reports are possible given the damage to the vehicles. They might also suggest whether they feel a medical practitioner gave an appropriate level of care to a patient seeking compensation for perceived negligence. They might even be called to testify in a murder trial if the defence claims its client was suffering from mental illnesses which diminished their responsibility. 

Expert witnesses must give a professional and objective opinion on the matters presented in the case. To do this they must have never treated the claimants or observed any events related to their cases, unlike traditional witnesses.

Expert medical witnesses typically have at least five years' experience working in a specialty healthcare field. Additional teaching, publishing, and research experience can hold a doctor looking to make the switch or supplement his income in high regard. 

Becoming an expert witness can be an intellectually stimulating career move and also a lucrative one. On average, medical expert witnesses earn $388 an hour for case reviews, $525 an hour for depositions, and $567 an hour for testimony. For long or complex cases, those hours can really add up!

5. Cardiac Perfusionist: Assist in Heart Surgery

Few people outside the medical world have ever heard of cardiac perfusionists, but these talented allied health professionals are at the front line of open heart surgery. Cardiac perfusionists, also known as certified clinical perfusionists or CCPs, operate the "heart-lung" machine which takes the place of the heart during these life-changing operations. The machine performs all the functions of a human heart: circulating, oxygenating, and purifying the blood. Cardiac perfusionists play a critical role in many surgeries involving the heart including organ transplants, heart bypasses, and other cardiac operations.

These healthcare workers typically complete a bachelor's degree, generally in biology or a related science, before undertaking an accredited training program in clinical cardiac perfusion to gain the skills necessary to handle this important work. These programs typically require students to complete at least 150 procedures as a trainee before passing a certification exam offered by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. Only upon completing these requirements is an individual permitted to work as a cardiac perfusionist.

According to the American Medical Association, entry-level cardiac perfusionists stand to make between $60,000 and $75,000 a year. With some experience behind them, perfusionists are compensated for their specialist skills to the tune of between $70,000 and $90,000. Perfusion managers stand to earn more than $100,000 for their roles.

These eclectic roles prove that the healthcare industry is much more diverse than many people think.

Contributed to jobs.net by Courtney Rudd

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