The Role of the Health Educator in the Management of Rheumatic Disease

health educator

The Health Educator may provide information to patients to help prevent some problems associated with arthritis, such as pain, loss of function, disability, depression, etc.

What Does the Health Educator Do?

The Health Educator’s role may vary, however the Health Educator generally participates in educating patients about behaviors and lifestyle decisions that promote wellness. The Health Educator may assist with educating a patient individually, arrange and teach small groups of patients, or coordinate and conduct larger patient/public educational conferences or public prevention & wellness campaigns. Whatever the educational venue, the overall goal is to increase patients’ knowledge and understanding of their condition in order to better manage their illness and promote wellness. Additional goals of the Health Educator may be to promote behaviors that will prevent the onset or progression of some forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis through weight management.

In accord with the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, there are seven areas of responsibility that help define the competencies and roles of Health Educators. Effective Health Educators will:

  • Assess needs, assets and capacity for health education
  • Plan health education
  • Implement health education
  • Conduct evaluation and research related to health education
  • Administer and manage health education
  • Serve as a health education resource person
  • Communicate and advocate for health and health education

It is important for the Health Educator to assess the understanding of the patient and their ability to engage in education about their illness, health and wellness. These are important aspects of ‘health literacy’ along with the ability to obtain and use health care information. In this way, the Health Educator can develop the most appropriate lesson plan and may provide useful information for the patient.

Where Does the Health Educator Work?

Education may be provided through a wide variety of settings and venues such as medical clinics, health insurance companies, health associations or foundations (e.g. Arthritis Foundation, Lupus Initiative, Spondylitis Association of America, etc.). Health Educators provide education in hospitals, colleges and universities, county, state and federal government health services, the Veteran’s Administration, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. Health Educators often contribute to medical literature included in health journals and magazines, online publications, and more.

What Kind of Training Does the Health Educator Have?

The training of a Health Educator is varied depending on where the Health Educator works. Health Educators may attain undergraduate or graduate degrees in education, public heath, nursing, etc. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing has established criteria for certification of Health Educators 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 Health Educators. A Certified Health Education Specialist is an individual who: 1) meets academic eligibility requirements, 2) passes the written examination and 3) is committed continuing education in health education.

Ultimately, Health Educators are committed to improving the overall care, well-being, and function of patients with rheumatic disease through provision of education to patients, their families and the community.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnoses and treatment of a medical or health condition.

© 2015 American College of Rheumatology