Individuals who specialize in health care public relations are in charge of handling internal and external communications for health care organizations. They may interact with physicians, nurses, managers, administrators and patients, and therefore, must have excellent communication skills. Some responsibilities include writing for internal publications and handling media calls, as well as writing and creating various materials that promote services offered at that facility.
Public relations specialists also may be called on to prepare public relations plans that highlight various aspects of an organization. Managing all communications with the public is the most important function of this position. Public relations specialists may organize events between the organization and the public, or communicate to the public by writing and distributing press releases. Public relations specialists must be highly organized and be prepared to deal with a variety of situations. They usually work 40 hours a week, but this can vary due to deadlines or an unforeseen crisis involving the health care organization. Individuals interested in health care public relations should be detail oriented, able to cope with high levels of stress, and able to handle a heavy workload.
Public relations specialists can work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), psychiatric facilities and community health centers. They may supervise several public relations assistants who help with daily operations.
High School Preparation
Students interested in a career as a health care public relations specialist should take high school courses in algebra, biology, computer skills, data processing, psychology, English, health, government, history, literature, foreign languages, anatomy, sociology and health occupations/medical professions education.
Individuals interested in public relations must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. The majority of health care public relations positions require a bachelor’s degree combined with experience in public relations as an intern. Employers usually prefer a degree in communications, journalism, English, public relations, advertising or a related field. Individuals can become Accredited through PRSA.
Employment opportunities for health care public relations specialists should grow faster than the average for all occupations though 2012. There is an expected increase of 21–35 percent in the number of jobs that will become available over this period of time. The demand for good public relations personnel will increase because of the need to keep the public informed about a variety of issues that could affect their daily lives. Competition will be the greatest for entry-level public relations jobs because the number of qualified applicants is expected to exceed the number of job openings.
* Information courtesy of MHA Health Careers Center.