As somebody who naturally cares for others, you are led by a heart-felt need to be there for others in need. Your services are much-needed, and we are going to look at 5 careers for care givers you may want to consider in your search for ways to be of service. Plus, I’m going to share with you a bit about the risks of compassion fatigue for care givers.  

In my own work providing counseling, consultation and coaching, I often find myself assisting adults led into the work of being a helping professional. I work with a lot of psychotherapists who specialize in play therapy but I also work with occupational therapists, neuromuscular therapists, chiropractors, nurses, doctors, school counselors, and many others careers for care givers.

Care givers are typically know from early childhood they are here on the planet to be of service and support to other human beings, and sometimes for animals and plants. You likely have always been oriented to naturally lend assistance to anyone in need but maybe you feel drawn to working with children or the elderly in particular. Identifying what kind of people and needs you feel most passionately led to serve is your first step. Let’s take a look at some options for career paths that might suit what your heart leads you to do in the world.

Here are 5 Careers for Care Givers

1. Play Therapist. Well, of course I’m going to start with this one as this has been my own first career passion and I love helping people develop their careers in play therapy. Play is a child’s natural language through which they explore, express and experience the world as they know it. Registered Play Therapists are psychotherapists who have at least a masters degree in the mental health field and additional training, experience and supervision specifically in the practice of play therapy. Play therapists typically use specifically selected toys and play items to engage with children in their play in order to understand what a child is going through and help children through and beyond their emotional, mental and social struggles such as anxiety, grief and trauma. If this appeals to you, start off by achieving your masters degree in counseling, social work or marriage and family therapy. Then you’ll need to be fully licensed in the state you live and work in which can take up to 3 years on most places. You can obtain your play therapy training, experience and supervision as you’re working toward your licensure. You’ll work toward your credential as a Registered Play Therapist (RPT) with Association for Play Therapy‘s process.

2. Nurse. Becoming a nurse is a journey and a promising career for you as a natural care giver if you are medically inclined. My own mother went back to school in her late 40’s to achieve her degree and credentials as a nurse and went on to care for the elderly in various settings so I learned a lot from her about the essence of the care giving nurses are wired and trained to provide. These days you can achieve your credentials as an RN to BSN online as well as many other traditional university and hospital based options. In the field of nursing it’s most common that you will gain experience working in a hospital setting right out of the gate of your training and then you can move on to more specialized settings and populations if you so desire. Regardless of the setting in which you use your nursing skills there is the common underlying basis of opportunity to extend your care giving nature to people in need. 

3. Child Life Specialist. A child life specialist is a special healthcare worker typically employed by a hospital to serve on the pediatric unit working with children and their families to relive discomfort during hospital visits as well as provide education for children on relative health issues. To be a Child Life Specialist there are requirements as in any career path. You’ll need a bachelors degree in any field along with specialized child life training, internship and an exam to receive certification. Child Life Specialist use playful interventions to assist children and families before and after medical treatment or surgeries in hospital settings. Child life services are recommended and offered to varying degrees in community hospitals with pediatric units, ambulatory clinics, emergency departments (EDs), hospice and palliative care programs, camps for children with chronic illness, rehabilitation settings, and some dental and physician offices.

4. Occupational Therapist. Similar to the field of physical therapy, occupational therapists assist patients from a more holistic perspective focusing on helping people improve in their activities for daily living that includes motor skills and functioning.Pediatric occupational therapists help children build skills they need to develop age appropriate independence and functionality. Physical impairment, injuries and sensory integration challenges can hinder a child’s ability to achieve common tasks or move normally through the stages of social or cognitive development. You’ll need a masters degree in occupational therapy and a certain amount of fieldwork along with an exam to be an OT.  I have often referred my child clients for pediatric occupational therapy when I suspected there may be challenges with the child integrating sensory in-put and have found this service to be very helpful. Being an occupational therapist, whether working with adults or children can be a wonderful opportunity to utilize your natural care giver tendencies in a way that can make a big difference in the lives of others.

5. Geriatic Care Manager. This career path is about caring for elderly adults and involves orking with families of the elderly. Their support and educational services guides families to decisions that lead to quality care and an ideal life for those they love, thereby relieving worry and stress of the family care givers. You’ll need a Masters degree in a health care or mental health area with extra training in the geriatric sector along with a certification exam. This career path is one that allows you to be a coach and leader for the entire family system in regards to caring for the elderly member of the family and can be a very rewarding career.

There are many more careers for care givers out there for you to explore. You can always look to your own community for opportunities to volunteer for those in need if you just want to serve without having to go back for further schooling

Regardless of how you utilize your natural care giving tendencies, you will always be at risk of compassion fatigue and burn out because you are only human. It’s essential that you attend to your self-care and find balance in your life and work so that you don’t become emotionally and mentally depleted.