Many people have a general sense that they want a career in healthcare. But the reality is often very different from what they imagine. Healthcare is a challenging environment: yes you help people, but the flipside is that you have to provide emotional and physical support to people, day in, day out. It’s one of those things that sounds great in theory but is hard in practice.
In this article, we’re going to investigate how to tell whether healthcare is the right career path for you. Should you invest the time in getting all the qualifications you need? Or should you focus on another industry that is more suited to your personality? Let’s find out.
Do You Like Working In Fast-Paced Settings?
There are two reasons why healthcare workplaces move fast. First, the demands on your time are constant. It’s not like working as an accountant where everything revolves around a set schedule and the tax year. In the medical setting, disasters can arise at any moment, and you need to be able to deal with them. A midwifery degree can teach you about certain aspects of delivering a baby, but it doesn’t reveal much about the reality of the delivery room.
The second issue is the fact that medical technology moves on all the time. Clinics are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest treatments to offer patients to improve wellbeing. As a medical practitioner, you need to be comfortable with an ever-changing environment, and willing to update your knowledge.
Do You Like Working With Others?
Providing healthcare is a team effort. There’s the canonical example of the surgeon in the operating rooms, relying on a team of people to pass instruments and monitor the patient. But teamwork is everywhere in the sector, even at the executive level. Hospitals and surgeries need people who can work effectively with others, predict their needs, and meet them in real time.
Being able to work with others can be a challenge for some people. You need to have a fundamental love of people to get by in the healthcare setting. You’re regularly exposed to other people’s needs, be they, colleagues or patients. For many, it can be exhausting, but for some, it’s also fulfilling.
Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself whether you truly enjoy the company of others. Then prepare yourself for the onslaught.
Do You Enjoy Caring For Others?
When asked, most people would say that yes, they like caring for others. But when you consider around 50 per cent of people are introverts, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Do most people really like caring for others, especially as a job? The answer is probably “no.”
Healthcare professionals have to care for others. Their job is to attend to the needs of their patients diligently, predict problems, and offer timely solutions. At the root of everything they do is empathy: the ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others in context. Patients, for instance, may be stressed or depressed, not because that’s what they’re actually like as people, but because they’re ill or in pain. Healthcare professionals need to have the insight to understand this, work with it, and help patients find peace in distressing situations.
Can You Cope With Death?
It’s a morbid subject, true. But people in healthcare have to get comfortable with death. Even though medicine is about curing people, everybody eventually dies, and there’s nothing that you can do about it.
Hearing about death is very different from seeing it. Is it something that you think you can cope with? Or does it frighten you?
Would you be able to tell the family of a patient that he or she has passed away?
Are You Interested In How The Human Body Works?
The day to day experience of healthcare professionals is important. But medics also need to be interested in what they’re doing for it to be satisfying.
Do you have an intellectual interest in how the body works? Do you want to understand the mechanisms behind common ailments, like diabetes? Do you relish the thought of knowing how to set a broken leg or repair a damaged heart? If you do, then great: you’re probably an ideal candidate to move into the medical industry. However, if your intellectual passions lie elsewhere, then you’re likely to struggle. When you become a healthcare professional, there’s a lot to learn. You don’t want any innate boredom getting in your way.
Do You Want To Learn All The Time?
Hundreds of thousands of new medical papers come out every year. The sum of human knowledge gets larger all the time. As a medical professional, nobody expects you to keep up with the deluge of new scientific material, but you will want to stay abreast of major developments.
Being a medic is to commit to lifelong learning. You’ll have to pick up new knowledge throughout your career, even as you approach retirement. It’s unlikely that medical technology will stop advancing or that doctors will cease developing new procedures.
Getting a degree in a medical field is, in many ways, only the first step. A degree gives you all the basics, but you’re likely to learn much more while on the job itself.
Are You Self-Motivated?
People often rail against elitism. But when it comes to medical care, patients always want the best. No patient wants a mediocre doctor to perform open-heart surgery on them.
Medical professionals, therefore, need to be highly self-motivated people. They need to be constantly in search of making improvements to their practice, whatever that might be.
It shouldn’t be about external rewards: those are fleeting. The best medics are those who are inspired by something more profound or bigger than themselves. Yes, they want to please others, but they’re also committed to doing good in the world, and they see their career as part of that.
Healthcare is a demanding profession. It requires a lot of work. It’s not cushy. It requires you to be on your feet, literally, day in, day out.