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

health educator

The Health Educator participates in educating patients about lifestyle decisions and behavior that promote wellness in the context of rheumatic disease. The Health Educator role has been implemented at many different levels to improve health outcomes in rheumatology patients and other populations.

What Does the Health Educator Do?

The Health Educator may educate patients directly and individually, work with small groups of patients, or educate on a larger scale with groups of patients or health systems. He/she may also conduct conferences and participate in public health education, prevention, and wellness campaigns. The Health Educator may work with children, adults, and elderly populations, incorporating family and patient support systems.

Working with rheumatology patients, a Health Educator may work in collaboration with the health care team to support the unique needs of the patient. This may include disease education, promoting a healthy lifestyle (diet and exercise), providing information on associated issues such as pain management, coping strategies and support resources, or preventing disability.

Regardless of venue or population, the goal of the health educator is to increase knowledge and understanding of health conditions and health concerns in an effort to improve quality of life, improve disease management, positively impact health outcomes, and promote wellness.

According to 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/promotion
  • Plan health education/promotion
  • Implement health education/promotion
  • Conduct evaluation and research related to health education/promotion
  • Administer and manage health education/health promotion
  • Serve as a health education/health promotion resource person
  • Communicate, promote, and advocate for health, health education, and the profession

Other important responsibilities include:

  • Develop education opportunities for patients and staff
  • Develop health initiatives
  • Improve communication between the patient and health care team
  • Collaborate with the health care team to address and support patient needs and outcomes
  • Participate in research on various levels
  • Contribute to medical literature included in health journals and online publications

Where Does the Health Educator Work?

The Health Educator can make an impact in many different settings. Health Educators are often employed in hospitals, clinics, private businesses, schools/colleges/universities, pharmaceutical companies, government offices, assisted living facilities and nursing homes, health associations and foundations (i.e., Arthritis Foundation, Lupus Foundation of America, Spondylitis Association).

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.