You've decided to make the move into a career in healthcare, but you don't know where to start. There are several entry-level opportunities to choose from. A major consideration is how much direct patient care you wish to be involved in. Here are three entry-level roles to look at that have different levels of direct patient care.

Certified Nursing Assistant

This role is mainly about direct patient care as you assist doctors and nurses with delivering care to patients. You'll also have a number of responsibilities with the patient yourself, such as:

  • assisting patients with personal hygiene tasks and getting them ready for the day or for bed at night
  • helping people with eating and drinking and recording their food and fluid intake
  • taking vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse, and recording them in the patient's medical record
  • helping other healthcare providers with procedures, such as dressing changes and catheter placement

In this role, you can work in hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices and treatment centers. Once you have experience as a nursing assistant, you can take additional training to work in specialty areas, such as cancer treatment or labor and delivery.

Medical Assistant

If you want some patient contact but don't want to have your entire role dedicated to that, the medical assistant role would be a good choice. You'll assist patients in different ways, but you will not be responsible for patient care. Some of the tasks you'll do include:

  • scheduling appointments for patients
  • maintaining information in patient medical records
  • helping people as they check in for their appointments
  • assisting people with questions about their insurance

You may also have some clinical responsibilities in a hospital that uses medical assistants such as:

  • taking patient vital signs and preparing patients to see their doctor
  • reviewing treatment plans with patients after their visit

With additional training, you can get your phlebotomist certification, which allows you to draw blood, start transfusions and work in a blood bank. You can get a certification like this by enrolling in programs offered at places like Western Career Training. Other training lets you run diagnostic tests, such as an electrocardiogram, so that the doctor can see a patient's heart activity.  

Medical Coding Specialist

If you prefer to start out in a role with no direct patient contact, consider being a medical coder. In this role, you'll receive information from various sources, such as from doctor's notes and laboratory results, and record them in the patient's medical records.

You'll be responsible for making sure that the information meets the coding standards so that other healthcare providers reviewing a patient's records will have the same understanding of their diagnosis and treatment plans.

You can work in hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices, but many coders can work from home. You won't have direct contact with patients, but you'll gain an understanding of the healthcare diagnosis and delivery process by dealing with patient medical records.