What Is a Certified Health Education Specialist?

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Modern healthcare is a complex system of policymakers, insurers, and providers. As patients navigate these various stakeholders, a certified health education specialist is the expert who helps them understand how to get the best care possible. This is a crucial role in healthcare, since many people forgo care because they’re intimidated by its complexity, among other factors.

Certified health education specialists need a strong understanding of the modern healthcare system and the skills to help patients in diverse populations manage their wellness. They can develop these skills by gaining experience and pursuing a degree in a related field, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

A health education specialist takes a child’s temperature at a wellness fair.

Work Settings for Certified Health Education Specialists

Given their interconnected position collaborating with various healthcare system stakeholders, a certified health education specialist can work in a variety of settings. Some may work in an office within a hospital system, school, government agency, or nonprofit organization, while others work mostly out in the field to reach community members in need.

Health Education Specialist Job Description

For those considering healthcare careers, the details of what the job actually entails are important, since there is such a wide diversity of roles in the field. Jobs can include directly serving patients or doing administrative work behind the scenes.

People considering healthcare careers may not be familiar with what a certified health education specialist is, since it’s a niche role that has existed for only about 30 years. The typical duties of a health education specialist can include a wide array of responsibilities, including the following.

Evaluating Community Health Issues

It’s important for health education specialists to understand the needs of the communities they’re serving. They may accomplish this by sending out surveys, setting up informational booths at local events or organizations, or coordinating with healthcare providers in the area. Community members may be asked about the last time they visited a doctor, what their health goals are, or whether they have insurance.

Once these assessments are completed, health education specialists can use this data to help policymakers make informed decisions about which initiatives they should invest in, for example. They can also work with insurers and providers to improve community outreach. Collecting and evaluating this data allows health education specialists to provide valuable insights to these groups.

Helping Clients Manage Chronic Conditions

Once the health education specialist has assessed a community’s needs, they can better inform community members on wellness practices that address unique challenges, including chronic conditions such as diabetes. This can be done one-on-one or on a larger scale by organizing practical educational programs for community members to attend.

Health education specialists can make a positive impact on their community members’ quality of life through this type of work.

Assessing Program Effectiveness

A critical part of what a health education specialist does is to regularly evaluate progress toward community healthcare goals. They can do this by reviewing the number of appointments patients made with primary-care doctors since an initiative began, tracking how many patients applied for health insurance, or surveying how community members rate their quality of life after starting a new care strategy.

These important milestones can determine a program’s effectiveness, allowing a health education specialist to make informed decisions on whether to continue the program, expand it, or adjust it to better align with intended outcomes.

Directing Clients Toward Relevant Resources

Oftentimes community members face barriers in gaining sufficient access to healthcare services. Health education specialists can serve as a resource, providing information on providers and connecting patients with financial or transportation assistance programs. They can also follow up with patients and providers to ensure services remain accessible to those who need them.

Pushing for Policies That Improve Human Health

A health education specialist will often advocate for their community to secure the support it needs from policymakers. As they evaluate the needs of their community, the specialist can serve as a powerful conduit for the collective voices of its patients.

This advocacy ensures policymakers prioritize their community members’ needs. For example, policymakers may need to give effective wellness programs the funding they need to expand or police harmful pollution impacting the community.

Fundamental Skills for Health Education Specialists

The following skills are often integral to becoming a successful certified health education specialist:

  • Critical thinking and analysis: Assessing health needs is a critical part of what a certified health education specialist does. They need to be able to analyze data and determine suitable solutions to improve the wellness of their community.
  • Effective communication: Health education specialists work with a wide range of stakeholders on a diverse range of issues. Effectively conveying information in different ways to suit each of these audiences is essential.
  • Empathy: Healthcare is innately personal, so health education specialists need to be able to show patience and empathy to those in their community who may be struggling with the complexities of our modern health system.
  • Problem-solving: Working at the complicated intersection of patients, providers, insurers, and policymakers often requires health education specialists to get creative with how they address systemic wellness problems in their communities.

Health and Physical Education Degree and Training

Aspiring certified health education specialists need to complete a relevant bachelor’s degree and pass the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam. This exam, offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC), covers seven areas of responsibility for this role, including health assessment, program implementation, and health resource promotion.

Ongoing training is necessary to maintain a CHES certification. Professionals must complete 75 hours of continuing education every five years to keep up with current research in the field. This can be done through conferences, workshops, and other coursework.

Certified Health Education Specialist Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of health education specialists will increase 8% between 2021 and 2031. The salary for certified health education specialists can fluctuate based on the state and type of organization. However, according to the BLS, the median annual salary as of May 2021 was about $60,600.

Start Your Health Education Specialist Journey with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A certified health education specialist is an important resource for local communities, helping navigate the complex modern healthcare system and increase people’s overall wellness. Through relevant education and certification, you can specialize in promoting accessible health resources.

Learn more about Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program, a flexible option for current registered nurses who want to step up and better the health of their communities.

Recommended Reading

The Top 8 Nonclinical Skills Needed to Be an Excellent Nurse

Importance of Nurse Appreciation: Supporting Healthcare Workers

How Nurses Impact Quality of Care

Sources

National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Profession

National Library of Medicine, Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)

Society for Public Health Education, “What Is a Health Education Specialist?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Education Specialists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers