There are a myriad of careers in the healthcare industry, and you will be expected to undertake some training or study to prepare you for work in this demanding and specialized sector. While this training is vitally important to develop the skills you need, everyone, whether entering healthcare as a change of career or fresh from school, will have gained many skills from other employment or simply from life itself. These skills will be highly valuable in your new career, equipping you well for coping with the demands and pressures. During a job application or interview, you will want to highlight your professional training, but do not forget to also draw attention to your many other skills and how they will add to your ability to carry out your role effectively.
When you work in a healthcare setting, you will often be working with people who are frightened, vulnerable, or in pain, and the skills needed to care for them should not be underestimated. Anyone who has worked in elderly or disability care will have acquired considerable caring skills readily transferable to the healthcare industry, as will those who have worked in childcare settings. Even if you have not worked professionally in any care setting, you may have experience caring for an elderly family member or raising your own children. For those who have given up work to undertake caring responsibilities within the family, a career in healthcare can be ideal for when they are ready to return to work.
In all areas of healthcare, from consultant to nurse to hospital receptionist, good communication skills are essential. Patients and their families will often need detailed information explained to them clearly and simply to allow them to make the best decisions for their care or to understand the treatment process properly.
So many jobs help you develop good communication skills. They include jobs in education, coaching or training, customer service, or marketing, to name but a few. If you have undertaken any study, even if your degree was not in a healthcare-related subject, there is a high probability that you will have needed to learn how to communicate information effectively. You should highlight it in an interview if the interviewer asks you how it is relevant to a healthcare career. If you have good communication skills, these will come over well in an interview, increasing your chances of being offered the position.
Organizational and admin skills
Successfully managing the treatment of all the patients that pass through any healthcare setting involves a vast amount of organization and admin. With roles ranging from a clinical manager or outpatient manager to jobs in finance and record keeping, healthcare settings are crying out for people with good admin skills. Therefore, a career in healthcare is wide open to people who have worked in an office, finance, or IT. Such work will have many transferable skills that can enable you to gain an admin position in a healthcare setting. To help you transfer these skills, you may like to consider a degree in healthcare administration, something that is widely available at universities across the country.
If you are already working in admin, you may well have financial commitments that mean you cannot devote yourself to full-time study or can move to a university to achieve the degree. Gaining the degree may not be crucial, but combined with your existing skills, it will certainly help your application stand out. In this case, it is well worth considering online study as a more flexible option that delivers the same high quality of education. One place you can study for your healthcare administration degree online is the Central Christian College of Kansas. Resulting in a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration, the course covers financial management in healthcare, human resource management, and organizational behavior and leadership that can prepare you well for various administrative and organizational roles in healthcare settings.
Good time management is essential in busy healthcare settings, but this is not uncommon in any workplace, and you will likely have already gained time management skills. Additionally, if you have undertaken any study, you will have needed to learn how to manage your time effectively. This can be particularly true with remote learning and online study, where the student needs to take responsibility for organizing their own time. If you have acquired good time management skills, it is well worth mentioning them when applying for healthcare roles. It would also be handy if you are particularly well known for these skills in your existing employment; perhaps your employer could mention this in their reference.
Collaboration and teamwork
When patients enter a healthcare facility, it is improbable they are cared for by one person alone. Instead, there is likely to be an array of people involved in their care. There might be several doctors, nurses, and therapists. Behind the action are the admin staff and lab workers, as well as the other workers who might play non-health-related roles, such as cooks and cleaners, who are vital to the smooth-running of the facility. That means anyone working there needs to be a good team player and able to collaborate. If members of the team do not communicate and work together effectively, it will be detrimental to the patient’s care. If you have worked in any kind of group setting, it is likely you are already accustomed to collaborative work and have skills that will make you an effective part of a healthcare team.
People whose sole employment has been in settings such as shops, cafes, bars, or restaurants may feel they have no transferable skills to set them up for a healthcare career. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In these settings, you will be in continual contact with the public and have developed many skills to deal with them. Often this will mean maintaining calm, friendly communication, but sometimes you may have had to deal with demanding customers and learn how to handle problems and complaints.
In a healthcare setting, you will need to be able to deal with patients and their families, who may be experiencing some of the most difficult times of their lives. People who are hurt, ill or frightened will not be at their best, and the skills you have built up in dealing with awkward customers will stand you in good stead for dealing patiently but firmly with the sick or injured. You can help to soothe their anxieties and ensure they are kept well informed about all that is happening.
You will have gained leadership skills if you have held any managerial position, run your own business, or had employees working under your supervision. You might have gained leadership experience through work in education, training, or coaching, making you skilled in managing others and ensuring their wellbeing, safety, and progress. All this can help if you want to rise to a leadership role in a healthcare setting. You might one day run a hospital department, become a hospital administrator, or even a CEO. Alternatively, you might hold a management position in a different setting, such as a clinic or nursing home. With the proper qualification, a doctor can become a consultant, leading the decisions on patient care, while nurses can become advanced practice nurses, making critical decisions on patient care. Some will become a director of nursing.
Something that might be particularly suitable for nurses who have gained leadership skills in an educational setting, particularly if they have enjoyed the teacher role, is to become a nurse educator, helping to educate the next generation of nurses.
In a healthcare setting, you should expect the unexpected. It might be a patient with symptoms that don’t fit a condition you recognize or an injury you have never seen before. There will be patients who don’t respond to the standard treatments or an incident that results in multiple severely injured casualties at once. As time is of the essence, those working there will be expected to come up with new plans and solutions fast, possibly at a time of high stress.
These situations call for people who can think outside the box, especially when under pressure. Problem-solving is also essential in many other sectors, including science, industry, and business. If you have thrived when faced with the unexpected in these situations, you may be well suited to the fast-paced atmosphere of a hospital, perhaps particularly the ER.
Specialized knowledge and skills
Many professions include specialized skills and knowledge that transfer easily to healthcare. For those who work in IT, your skills would be valuable in the IT systems of a healthcare setting, from managing patient records and appointment systems to finances and data analysis.
Those from a scientific background might easily be able to make the step to the lab work of a hospital, pathology, and the analysis of test results. If they have worked in the pharmaceutical industry, they may already be familiar with the drugs and vaccines regularly administered.
Hospitals also require many non-medical professionals. Anyone who has worked as a receptionist in any setting will find it easy to take on a similar role in a hospital or clinic. With good hygiene so important, hospitals always need cleaners with the skills to do a thorough job. An individual who has worked in the food industry could work in the hospital kitchen, possibly without further training. If they were looking for a career change, they could consider becoming a dietician to help take their existing knowledge to a new level.
Coping with pressure
The fast-paced, busy atmosphere of a healthcare setting can be stressful to work in. Employees in all roles need to work hard, often making quick decisions, dealing with frightened, vulnerable people, or needing to respond to many situations at once. Although most healthcare employees find their work rewarding and worthwhile, it could never be described as easy! This means you need to be able to work well under pressure, and there are several soft skills you might have picked up through previous employment and life itself that can help with this.
A positive attitude: No matter how stressful work is, maintaining a positive attitude is vital to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. It will also boost morale, helping your colleagues remain positive and provide a better atmosphere for the patients.
Diplomacy: Under pressure, it is easy for tempers to fray, causing additional problems and ill feelings among colleagues that will increase the stress. At stressful times it is even more important to work together to solve any problems, and a diplomatic attitude can go a long way to help resolve issues without ruffling feathers. In a hospital setting, diplomacy can be ever more important when dealing with scared and unwell patients and their families, who may not be feeling diplomatic. By handling matters tactfully, you will present a professional attitude that can go a long way to helping the patients and their families feel reassured.
Adaptability: Things can frequently change on healthcare premises. Sometimes it can be an instant change, such as a large accident with multiple casualties. At other times there may be a more gradual change, such as when a new protocol or treatment is introduced. We should consider too how the healthcare sector has had to rise to meet the challenges of a global pandemic over the past few years. To succeed in a healthcare career, it will not help to be stuck in your ways and instead be willing to rise to meet the challenges of change.
Self-care: The saying “physician, heal thyself” is appropriate for anyone working in a healthcare setting. Looking after yourself is crucial in preventing burnout and delivering the high-quality care your patients deserve. Everyone needs downtime, and healthcare professionals must find ways to relax and spend time with family and friends or on activities they enjoy, keeping themselves in the best physical and mental shape.
Self-discipline: It’s easy to panic in stressful situations, but doing so will only worsen the situation. Healthcare professionals need the self-discipline to keep going, not giving up in challenging circumstances, and maintain the highest standards of care. This self-discipline will also be handy if undertaking any study to start or further your healthcare career, helping you maintain high standards for the best possible results.
Self-awareness: When working under pressure, it is essential to know your limits and to be able to accept when it is too much. Generally, healthcare employees work well under pressure, thriving under the challenges and fast-paced atmosphere. But all are only human, and the ability to cope can slip if there are other personal stresses, such as financial or relationship problems. Identifying when this is happening and seeking the appropriate help is essential.
Boundary setting: Related to self-awareness is knowing how to set boundaries to prevent you from being overwhelmed by the pressure and allowing it to spill over into your home life. Generally, it is about finding a balance. Healthcare workers are expected to work hard and are usually keen to do so. They will also want to show enthusiasm for their work. But at the same time, you also need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Having clear expectations of what your employment requires and knowing what you expect from your colleagues, both above and below you in seniority, will make everyone’s life easier.
Empathy: A key factor to remember in healthcare is that you are not alone. Everyone must cope with the same fast-paced environment and could be finding it just as overwhelming. Showing empathy will help improve the workplace dynamic and forge strong links with your colleagues, helping ultimately to make an easier working atmosphere for everyone.
Moving to a healthcare career
Starting any new career is a challenge, and the amount to learn can seem overwhelming when that work is in healthcare. However, it is important to remember that you are not starting with no experience behind you. Whatever you have experienced in life and employment so far is sure to have given you some skills that will help you throughout your study and as you take your first steps into work. The more you reflect on your existing skills, the likelier it is that you realize you already know far more than you think.