Making the Transition from Beauty Salon to Health Care

Amber Sketer When it comes to your face, Amber Sketers can tell you everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. Sketers is an aesthetician (facialist), working at the Atmosphere Day Spa in Woodland Hills, Calif. She's happiest when she is steaming pores open, applying facial masks, and massaging away someone's stress.

"The thing I love most about being an aesthetician is when I can make someone's day. Sometimes people come in stressed or sad but by the end of the facial they look totally tranquil," says the 31-year-old Sketers.

Not so tranquil, though, is the state of her business. After spending over 600 hours studying how the skin works and what the underlying causes of skin problems might be, then applying that knowledge on fellow students and passing a test administered by the California State Board of Cosmetology just to practice, Sketers now finds herself at a crossroads.

"The recession has definitely impacted the skin care/ spa industry. Profits are down for almost every aesthetician I know. We work on a commission basis, so no clients equals no money. My business this year is down over 25 percent from last year," Sketers says.

The best alternative

So, it was with a heavy heart that she looked around for another field to make a career switch to... and found health care. "I wanted to find something with a steady salary, something that would be in demand for a long time that is somewhat cushioned from economic downturns," she says, adding, "also, I wanted to stay in the business of helping people."

An excellent move, as it turns out. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 out of 20 fastest growing occupations are health-care related, and 3.2 million new jobs are predicted to open in the field between 2008 and 2018. "Despite economic ups and downs, people still get sick. That provides a somewhat stable prospect for health care workers in otherwise challenging financial times," says Dr. Mike Huckabee, director of the Physician Assistant Program at Union College in Lincoln, Neb., and an educational consultant for Health Education Solutions.

ultrasound pregnant mother "In addition, the current health care reform is reshaping health care. There is expected to be an increasingly burgeoning group of previously uninsured/underinsured individuals who will not be able to receive care, and the current work force is often working at capacity. So there remains a great need that will likely only grow," Huckabee says.

That is music to Sketers' ears, as she has chosen to focus her new career on Ultrasound Imagery. "I choose ultrasound because it is the cheapest diagnostic imaging modality (next to X-ray), so there are more ultrasounds performed than, say, PET scans or MRIs. And it is the only one that can be used on pregnant mothers. I also liked the idea that it is becoming a portable technology -- which makes it useful in emergency situations, like natural disasters, and also in under-developed parts of the world," explains Sketers.

Many opportunities

Other areas in the health care field that are ripe for expansion include physicians assistants, home health aides, dental hygienists and more. "The nursing shortage has been consistently a challenge for decades. Also, the demand for primary care providers such as family practice, pediatrics, and even emergency medicine, may see an increase in opportunities," adds Huckabee.

What does it take to make this transition? According to Huckabee, it's "the individual who is academically sharp and well-rounded with life experience. Coming into health care with a sense of humility and willingness to serve will likely meet the current crisis."

Sketers pares it down: "Pick something that you find fascinating or school will be a miserable experience. And you must be a patient and caring person because working with sick people requires a lot of compassion."

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