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Health Services Coordination: A Day In The Life

“Health and human services” is the name for the body of programs and services that provide individual health, public health, and human services assistance to people and communities in need. A career in this field is ideal for professionals who have a passion for bettering the lives of others and who have a gift for enriching whole communities through education, disease prevention, treatment plans, and remediation. The healthcare field has a growing need for ambitious health and human service professionals, so earning a bachelor’s degree in this field will provide a solid foundation for a lifelong career of helping and caring for others.  

WGU’s health and human services degree is for healthcare professionals who have medical certificates or licenses, have obtained an associate degree, or are ready to enter the medical field for the first time. In this program, students will learn how to effectively coordinate with healthcare providers, patients, caregivers, and medical services to improve the quality of patient care in an increasingly complex healthcare system. The degree program covers areas including patient-focused healthcare, leadership, communication, cultural awareness, person-centered care coordination, and more.

What Are Health and Human Services? 

It’s the first meeting of the day. A family brings in their six-month old baby and a health and a human services coordinator welcomes them into her office with a smile. She helps them fill out intake paperwork and completes an assessment with them to get an understanding of their life. She learns about the developmental delays their baby has, their financial and job situation, and discusses the goals they have for their child. The coordinator sets up another meeting in a few days with the occupational therapist and physical therapist who will be key in helping their child start to progress. She continues to reassure them that she’ll help them with everything they may need, from getting more diapers to scheduling appointments. That is her job as a health and human services coordinator.

Another health and human service coordinator meets with a patient and their family before they are discharged from the hospital. He helps them understand the medications they’ll need to take when they get home, the physical therapy they’ll need to go to, and he helps the patient set up the in-home nurse that will come once a week. He answers questions and sets appointments for the family to ensure they have absolutely everything they need for a smooth transition and a healthy recovery. The coordinator meets with the doctors and the patient one last time before they leave, to see that everything is lined up and accurate, to answer any questions, then send them on their way. The patient and their family are so relieved that everything is squared away and that they don’t have to worry.

There are meetings with healthcare providers, service providers, third-party medical organizations, and patients. There is paperwork, assessments, follow-up reviews, and patient-centered care. This is all in a day’s work for a health and human services coordinator. 

The daily work of a professional in this field is focused on helping patients and their families get what they need. The healthcare world can be overwhelming and confusing, and a health and human services coordinator’s sole focus is coordinating efforts from different providers and services for patients. Health and human services coordinators are also solely focused on patients getting what they need—they are not medical professionals with the authority to prescribe treatments, procedures, or medication. Rather, health and human services coordinators make sure that the patient’s voice is heard when decisions are being made regarding their health and life. This means that they often meet with patients in order to understand their wants and needs, then work with the healthcare team to communicate those wants and needs and coordinate next steps.  

Health and Human Services Coordinator: Skills and Requirements 

Health and human services coordinators are the champions of patient needs. They empathize during difficult situations, advocate for patients, and partner with people and professionals to deliver excellent care across the board. These healthcare professionals must possess a certain set of skills to be successful in their field and must meet certain requirements of the healthcare organizations that employ them.

Health and Human Services Coordinator Skills

Some key skills required to meet the needs of patients and effectively collaborate with other healthcare professionals include:

  • Empathy: Sometimes, patients receive unfortunate news about their health. It’s part of the job to empathize during times like these to keep the patient and their family as calm as possible. 
  • Emotional intelligence: Health and human service coordinators must approach each patient with compassion and the understanding that many of them deal with more life challenges than may meet the eye. Emotional intelligence helps care coordinators stay level-headed in the face of tragedy.
  • Communication: These professionals help patients understand health conditions and treatment plans, so it’s important that they’re skilled at communicating with all different types of people. It’s extremely helpful to be fluent in more than one language, especially in areas comprising different cultures.
  • Organization: Health and human services coordinators wear many hats and provide emotional care to numerous different patients and whole communities, which takes a very organized approach.
  • Time management: As a patient-facing healthcare worker, a health and human services coordinator must be very intentional with their time so they can help as many individuals as possible.

Health and Human Services Coordinator Requirements

Aspiring health and human services professionals must always hold a relevant bachelor’s degree. This education requirement shows employers that you’ve acquired the skills to provide quality care for patients in need.  

After finishing your bachelor’s degree program, you can apply to entry-level roles and gain work experience. You can also seek certifications in your area of interest to make yourself more competitive in the job market.   

Ambitious students may want to continue advancing their education by earning a master’s degree in a specific field of healthcare, such as in healthcare management or health leadership.

For entry-level health and human services roles, work experience is not required. For higher-level roles, it is expected that applicants have a few years of experience working in this field or in similar roles such as childcare worker, home health aide, or school career counselor

Health and Human Services Careers

Health and human services jobs are plentiful and widespread. Just about every community in the country can benefit from the work of this type of healthcare professional. Some common careers in this field include: 

  • Health educator: A health educator works with groups in community settings or with individuals to educate them on how to live a healthy lifestyle. They assess the needs within a community and develop programs to meet those needs.
  • Mental health counselor: A mental health counselor works with individuals and groups to nurture optimum mental and emotional health. These professionals help patients with depression, anxiety, substance abuse issues, and beyond.
  • Hospital administrator: Hospital administrators watch over the organizational side of health services. They work in teams or independently to ensure that a medical facility is using effective and efficient practices that give the best care possible.
  • Patient care coordinator: A patient care coordinator, often called a patient navigator, helps keep the lines of communication flowing between the patient and their healthcare providers. They are responsible for ensuring that a patient gets the best care possible.
  • Health services coordinator: Health services coordinators work between different medical units, insurance companies, and patients to establish clear communication regarding patient care.
  • Community health worker: Community health workers are the direct link between a community and healthcare professionals. They increase health knowledge and self-sufficiency through outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy. They create and implement strategies to improve the health of people within the community.

Experienced Professionals in the Health and Human Services Field 

Lindsay Gregory knows the ins and outs of being a health and human services coordinator like the back of her hand. She worked in the health and human services field for 12 years before becoming an instructor for the health and human services coordination program at WGU. Her career allowed her to work closely with young children and their families who had disabilities or developmental delays. Her role involved coordinating resources around the needs of families, setting them up with Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for their living situation, as well as coordinating services for children, like scheduling occupational therapy or speech therapy. Lindsay says it’s some of the most rewarding work in the world. 

“It gives me chills just to think about it,” she says with a smile. “Some of our young children would transition out of our program early because they had progressed so much, they didn’t need us anymore. It was truly amazing to see.” 

Lindsay says that helping patients and their families understand the healthcare they need and then being able to communicate their own goals is key. Patient-centered care is at the very heart of good health and human service.

“Our main focus was making sure we were giving the child the services they need, and the family was able to have their input and opinion,” she says. 

Having experienced professionals as faculty members at WGU helps set the Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Services degree program apart from similar programs. Instructors like Lindsay have considerable hands-on experience in the profession, so they’re uniquely equipped to prepare students for any real-world challenges of the job. They focus on evidence-based care, value-based practice, communication, leadership, and other areas that help students thrive in their careers.  

What Healthcare Coordination Is Not 

While a health and human services coordinator isn’t a case manager or social worker, their roles may be very similar. Health and human services coordinators can work in any medical facility, from a hospital or a nursing home, to a public health agency, and their job revolves around helping patients understand their care and working with all the medical professionals involved to coordinate that care. They make sure that patients can connect the dots, help them schedule appointments and meetings, and help them maintain a plan for meeting their goals.

Health and human services is also unlike nursing. Nurses administer treatments to patients, while health and human service coordinators help set up the treatment times and work with patients to explain processes. The role of a healthcare coordinator is not directly involved with medically treating patients.

Why Choose a Health and Human Services Degree at WGU? 

If you’re passionate about helping others and interested in the healthcare field, then a future in health and human services could be a perfect fit for you. Lindsay says that while there are challenges that come with working in the medical field, for those that have a passion for it, a career in health and human services coordination is extremely rewarding. And earning the health and human services coordination degree at WGU is the perfect place to start.

“The experience that WGU brings is far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before,” she adds. In addition to earning her own bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree programs, Lindsay has worked in higher education. She says that WGU brings education to the table in a unique way that has benefited thousands of students.

“You can have your work life, your family life, and still go to school. You don’t have a lot of those interruptions that you would with your traditional universities when you attend WGU,” she says.

Experienced faculty, completely online courses with no specific class times and no assignment due dates—all in a single degree program. It almost seems too good to be true, but it’s not. The B.S. Health and Human Services degree at WGU is the perfect place to start an exciting, rewarding career focused on helping patients and their families navigate the healthcare world. 

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