Helpful Degrees During a Health Crisis

Which Health Degrees Are The Best During a Health Crisis

We’ve been searching for the elixir of life for centuries. We’ve studied the foods, medicines, and practices that can aid flailing immune systems in the hopes that it will give us a new lease on life. We’ve made incredible strides in the last 50 years, but we seem to be stuck between two worlds.

On the one hand, we’re trying to shift from fast-foods, late-night TV, missed dentist appointments, and reluctant yearly checkups, to step tracking, calorie counting, and booming gym programs. On the other hand, Covid-19 has given us a reality check on health. If you’re one of the 40% of Americans who suffer from obesity, then the you’re considered high risk. If you’re from an underserved community, then you’re considered high risk. How do we fix these rising issues? And what can we do to help our communities as it reels from this unexpected reality check?

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Diving into degrees that focus on health – both mental and physical – social development, and health equality is perhaps one of the most noble steps you can take to serve your community. These professions are incredibly rewarding, but they’re also hard work. In this piece, we take a look at the degrees that are the most beneficial when a health crisis hits and how we can move past this limbo state and into a more positive, fulfilling health culture.

Master of Public Health

Sure, there’s a degree of biases in here – we’re huge advocates for the opportunities that come with MPH degrees – but we’re also realistic, and the MPH degree holders are at the forefront of the response to community health disasters.

What is it?

The MPH is a multi-disciplinary degree that’s open to people from any previous bachelor’s background. It encompasses a range of specialties – from global health, which looks at health across all socio-economic backgrounds and achieving health equality for everyone – from the most underserved communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the wealthiest individuals in first-world countries like the United States. Other specialties include epidemiology, health and social behavior, health management, and health policy. The goal behind the MPH is to train students to be leaders in various fields, so that they can analyze the issues that need attention, come up with effective solutions to fix these issues, and then rollout these fixes in the community, and evaluate the outcomes.

How does it help in a crisis?

When dealing with a major health crisis, there’s different stages to every plan. With an MPH, depending on your specialty, you’ll come in at a different stage – if you’re an analyst and researcher, then you’ll likely play your part at the beginning or end stages of the plan. If you choose to work with health policy, then you’ll be in charge of working with researchers to look at the current policies and see where amendments need to be made to benefit the community. Most of the time, public health workers are involved with long-term strategies to fix ongoing issues, but when there’s an emergency, all sectors work together to formulate and execute plans quickly and effectively.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A nurse’s job doesn’t start and end at the head of a patient’s bed – it goes beyond administering medication, updating chart information, and working with doctors. There are different levels of nursing, and the variety of degree programs on offer reflect this. One of the most important parts of the profession is the promotion of health education and awareness, which is most effectively done with active listening skills and clear communication.

What is it?

A Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing is one of the most widely offered programs in the country. The degree programs differ – some are two or three year diplomas, and others are more in-depth, four-year, science based programs. Most of them include coursework in physiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, pharmacology, and anatomy.

How does it help in a crisis?

Where an MPH graduate will work behind the scenes during a crisis, nurses are frontline workers and they work on an individual assistance level. Part of crisis management is instilling a sense of calmness and action through knowledge and leadership, and nurses are the main carriers of this during major health crisis. Their knowledge of patient care, testing, treatment, and follow-up examinations are crucial to not only taking care of the patient, but also to tracking and document cases to provide an overall analysis of the situation.

Master’s in Counselling

Mental health is often overlooked during global or community disasters. It’s probably one of our biggest challenges as a society – to see mental and physical health on equal footing when it comes to health and wellness. Counsellors play a stabilizing role in the community during a crisis and they keep people on a steady path and help them overcome the unexpected hurdles that occur when normal, daily life is disrupted.

What is it?

The most commonly studied counselling degrees focus on a dual counselling and psychology aspect. The coursework includes a range of topics including cognitive neuroscience, social psychology, abnormal psychology, and research methods. These coursework parts strive to show the connection between cognitive development and social behavior. Many mental health workers service a particular group – such as children, college students, the elderly, or couples, or whole family counselling.

How does it help during a crisis?

We always need calm, decisive individuals during a crisis. Being able to understand the issues you’re facing and adequately process these issues so that you can continue with your daily life is an extremely important part of surviving a crisis. But you can’t always do this on your own. You need someone who can provide treatment for you and your family. Brushing these issues aside with the aim of dealing with it later only allows the fear and uncertainty to grow. Counsellors help individuals process what’s happening and they’re able to give patients tools to continue to work through mental and emotional issues. They also work with community and various stakeholders to oversee social service programs. If your mental health isn’t taken care of, then your physical health starts to show strain eventually too, so having a strong mental health program during a crisis is imperative.

Master’s in Virology

This one gets a lot more technical and science-related than the other degrees on our list, but during health crises, biology degree-holders are the ones working with the dangerous pathogens to isolate, analyze, and find vaccines and cures. Their job is extremely detail orientated and specific, with stringent safety measures, an immense amount of pressure, and many frustrating late-nights, and sometimes promising, but long days.

What is it?

Getting to the Master’s in Virology program isn’t an easy road. To qualify for the program, your best route is to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, gain some work experience, and then apply for the Master’s degree. The coursework includes looking at cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology, and immunology and molecular biology.

How does it help during a crisis?

Virologists are constantly studying emerging diseases and pathogens, even when we don’t hear about it. They’re also not strictly lab workers – they often work out in the field, sometimes hiking through difficult terrain to get samples from animals and the surrounding environment before taking their samples back to the laboratory and studying it further. In the case of SARS and Covid-19, virologists in China were trudging through the caves of remote Chinese villages seeking the original carriers of those particular coronaviruses – these expeditions can take months or years. Virologists also work with the community members to get anecdotal evidence of their lifestyle and potential exposure. When a crisis like Covid-19 hits, virologists are the ones isolating genomes and working with other health professionals to develop vaccines.

What have we missed?

There are many people who display an incredible amount of resilience and strength when disaster strikes. We’re not always aware of them, but the work they put in deserves to be recognized. If we’ve missed any core degrees in this, let us know. We’ll keep adding to this piece to make sure that, should you wish you serve your country as a frontline or behind the scenes health professional, you’re armed with all the information you need to take that important step.