If you’re considering a career in healthcare, you’ve probably wondered what it’s really like. Maybe you’ve watched New Amsterdam, Scrubs, or Days of our Lives and thought, “That seems exciting and fulfilling.”
You already know that nurses and healthcare workers get to wear cute scrubs, work long hours, and have to wash their hands a lot which can result in some serious dry skin (a good hand mask will do wonders). You’ve also heard about the great pay and flexible hours. Perhaps the opportunities for travel appeal to your sense of adventure. But there’s more to think about. Let’s go over some aspects of working in the healthcare industry that you may not have considered.
How Kindhearted and Caring Are You?
Everyone knows that nurses are supposed to be caring, but can you keep it up under pressure and while you are being pulled in six different directions at a time? Healthcare workers do all sorts of cool medical stuff, but it can get tedious. They also spend a lot of time fetching things that patients can’t reach, answering the same questions over and over, and wiping bottoms.
Some patients will be “difficult” and others will be just plain mean. Sometimes, you end up being a referee between family members who are under a ton of stress and not at their best. Patients can also be manipulative and needy.
While all that sounds like a real challenge, always remember that it really is the little things that make all the difference for your patients and their families. The fact is a kind word, an extra pillow, a fresh cup of coffee are all just as important as the medical care you will provide, and bringing calm and balanced energy into the room can improve things for everyone.
Do You Have the Natural Skills That It Takes?
There is an almost endless array of positions and jobs in the healthcare industry. Some are heavily tech-based, some are very patient centered, and some are behind the scenes, but they require a few things in common.
All healthcare jobs require a strong work ethic and a sense of teamwork. No one works in healthcare alone. Even if you are out on the road as a visiting nurse or a mobile X-ray technician, you will always be part of a healthcare system and your relationships with your coworkers (and healthcare professionals in other systems) need to be strong and healthy.
Healthcare is also a constantly changing landscape, so you will need to have a natural love for learning. If you are someone who tends to get set in your ways, you will find working in healthcare a struggle.
Are You Well-Organized?
Do you spend a lot of time looking for your keys or your wallet? Really, think about it. Anyone who works in healthcare is going to be multitasking almost all of the time. The ability to organize yourself and your workflow while tending to the needs of almost everyone around you is super important.
If your memory isn’t that great, then you will need to create a system so that you can make sure you are getting your job done, or have all the information you need when a coworker or patient needs it.
Are your time management skills top-notch? You can have a plan for your day, but there will be countless interruptions and changes as you go along. Being able to prioritize, and then re-prioritize once derailed, is a skill not everyone has. The fact is that staying calm, pleasant, and flexible through your shift will make your day better and improve the experience of everyone you come in contact with.
Are You Physically and Emotionally Strong?
Working in the healthcare industry takes strength. You will need to be able to move quickly throughout your shift and even run in the case of an emergency. Nurses and other healthcare workers are often on their feet for most of the day and this can take a toll on your body. You may also be required to move people, and perform tasks in the unlikeliest of positions.
Keeping yourself healthy and strong is key, as is learning good body mechanics and safe techniques. Also, knowing when to ask for help can go a long way. There are jobs in healthcare that are less physically demanding, but that will limit your job options.
Working in healthcare exposes you to many heart-wrenching situations. It can be easy to feel overcome by your own emotions, or you may find yourself becoming angry and frustrated. This is a natural occurrence and nurses and healthcare professionals need to take good care of their mental health, too. Make sure you are able to monitor your mental and emotional state and get help when you need it.
Remember, you will need to also prioritize self-care which means taking time for yourself to rest and recover. It’s important to get rest, eat well, spend time in nature, connect with loved ones, and take time to pamper yourself with a hydrating face cream and a hot bath.
Are You Able to Work Odd Hours and Holidays?
Most people starting out in healthcare won’t get their dream shifts right off the bat. You may have to work night shifts or lots of holidays, especially at the beginning of your career. Many facilities are switching to 12-hour shifts, and while it sounds great to get your work week done in just three days, it’s actually tougher than it seems.
Working a 12-hour shift actually becomes more like 15 hours when you factor in the commute and the extra time you will likely need on either end of the shift. That leaves almost no time for anything other than sleeping before you get up and do it all over again.
Healthcare work never stops so holidays and weekends always need to be staffed. The new hires will often have less say in choosing what holidays they work, and it’s likely that all staff have to work some weekends.
The good part is when you can get your schedule to a place where you may have six days off in a row every other week and it’s almost like a vacation twice a month. The fact is it will likely take some time before you get that dream schedule all set up.
Are You Up for the Most Challenging Job of Your Life?
Working in the healthcare industry is certainly stressful and challenging, but it will also be rewarding in ways those who haven’t done it yet can’t even imagine.
It takes a very special kind of person to work in healthcare. Hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it, right? Making sure you have what it takes before taking the leap will help you make an informed decision.