Within the vast and vital universe of health care, there are pharmacists and phlebotomists, optometrists and orthotists, sonographers and speech therapists — to name just a half-dozen of the many specialists who keep us healthy and happy.
In fact, these professionals work in a field so vast that simply calling it all “Medicine” doesn’t quite cut it.
That’s why this month, the Boy Scouts of America is introducing the Health Care Professions merit badge, a STEM-focused, career-oriented badge designed to introduce young people to the roles that health care professionals play in the delivery of health care.
“When the Medicine merit badge was first introduced in 1991, it was primarily developed to focus on the ‘doctor’ side of human health care delivery,” says Lisa Balbes, advancement lead of the Scouts BSA Committee. “As the fields of human medicine expanded through specialization, support services and technology, it became apparent that Scouts were interested in learning about other areas of human health care and medical support.”
Trying to develop an individual merit badge for each health care specialization would see the number of available merit badges more than double.
Instead, “the BSA has decided to create a single merit badge that will encompass a wide variety of health care careers,” Balbes says.
What kinds of health care professions can Scouts learn about?
The Health Care Professions merit badge is highly customizable, meaning Scouts can select which health care professions to investigate further.
Does your Scout have an aunt who is an audiologist or a neighbor who is a nurse anesthetist? They can choose those professions to examine in greater depth.
The badge requirements present Scouts with four groups of health care professions. Within each group, Scouts get to choose three that interest them most. They must describe the role those professionals play and research what educational and licensing requirements those professionals must meet.
The groups are:
- Allopathic physician (MD) — all specialties
- Osteopathic physician (DO) — all specialties
- Podiatrist (DPM)
- Chiropractor (DC)
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Psychologist (PhD or PsyD)
- Optometrist (OD)
- Audiologist (AudD)
- Physician Assistant (PA)
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN/LVN)
- Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Pharmacist (PharmD)
- Pharmacy Technician
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)/Paramedic
- Physical Therapist (DPT)
- Occupational Therapist (OT)
- Medical Appliance Technician
- Respiratory Therapist (RT)
- Medical Assistant
- Dietitian (RD)
- Speech-Language Pathologist (Speech Therapist) (SLP)
- Biomedical Engineer (BME)
- Medical Technologist
- Radiology Technologist
- Medical Records Specialist
For requirement 5, Scouts must choose one of the 33 professions listed above and arrange to visit that professional at their workplace. After that meeting, the Scout must discuss the visit with their counselor.
That’s a great way for a Scout to get an up-close view of the important, challenging, well-paying field of health care.
What’s the rollout plan?
Scouts who have begun work on the Medicine merit badge may continue working on it until they are finished or turn 18.
After Dec. 31, 2021, Scouts may not begin working on the Medicine merit badge and should instead work on the Health Care Professions badge.
Hard-copy editions of the Health Care Professions merit badge pamphlet should be available in mid-November.
Why are merit badges updated?
Much more goes into a movie than cinematography. That’s why, in 2013, the BSA replaced the Cinematography merit badge with the Moviemaking merit badge.
Computers still play a critical role in our society, but they exist in a larger world of digital technology. That’s why, in 2014, the BSA replaced the Computers merit badge with the Digital Technology merit badge.
Notice the trend? The requirements within the BSA’s 138 merit badges aren’t chiseled in stone. They’re regularly adjusted in response to the real world.
That might mean smaller tweaks, like the 2016 addition of snowshoeing to the Snow Sports merit badge. Or it might mean major overhauls, like when Cooking became Eagle-required in 2014.
“The National Merit Badge Subcommittee reviews all merit badges every two years,” Balbes says. “We want to ensure they are current and relevant to the needs of today’s Scouts.”