Although many people enter the sector with altruistic motives, healthcare remains a highly competitive industry. While there are almost unlimited opportunities for career progression, some healthcare professionals stay in the same job for too long and become frustrated at being passed over for openings that go to their better-qualified peers instead. To avoid getting stuck in a rut, you need to be proactive and self-motivated, which means continually improving your relevant skills, acquiring more qualifications and staying up to date with new technology and changing roles.
The healthcare sector is one of the fastest moving parts of the economy and there is always something new to learn. Fresh opportunities for professional growth are appearing all the time. Taking advantage of these may require you to stretch yourself and step outside of your comfort zone.
The best way to boost your healthcare skills is through formal education. If you’re a working healthcare professional, then you’ll have already completed a challenging course of study before you were able to begin practice. However, there are always new qualifications that you could add to your resumé. These may enable you to specialize areas or work with specific demographics. You might want to focus on working with children, older people or women’s health. Specialized healthcare fields include anesthetics, midwifery, dentistry and oral surgery, among many other options.
Formal education might take the form of a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a Ph.D, but there are also numerous professional certifications that are just as valuable and which will enable you to expand your healthcare career into new horizons. These qualifications can often be earned online, so you can study while you continue to work.
Working nurses can realize their full potential by studying to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP) at a reputable institution such as Carson-Newman University. The course is 100% online, allowing you to continue to meet your existing responsibilities, and it can be completed in as little as two years. Fully supported clinical placements help students to gain valuable first-hand experience that counts towards their post-master’s FNP certification.
Learning new skills requires motivation. It’s too easy to let time slip by because you’re so busy with your existing commitments. The best way to counter this is to set clear goals along with a realistic timeline of when you want to achieve them. Review your progress towards these goals at regular intervals. A process of continual self-assessment will help you to see where you’re lacking skills or experience, and what you can do to remedy any shortfall.
Think of your career path as a journey. You should have an ultimate end destination in mind, but getting there requires you to pass through several stages along the way. What skills or qualifications do you need to begin your journey and get to the first stage post? Breaking up your main goal into smaller mini-goals or individual steps helps make your plan seem more achievable. It also makes it into something that you can and should get started on right away.
The value of a mentor
Having a mentor can be an invaluable help in progressing your career and discovering areas of study you might otherwise have neglected. A mentor needs to be someone that you trust and who you can discuss your career with in a frank and open manner. Expect friendly criticism as well as encouragement.
A good mentor will spot personal qualities in you that you may not have noticed before. Due to these qualities, some healthcare roles may suit you better than others, and you may be inspired to go in a direction you hadn’t previously considered. Your mentor will be significantly further on in their career than you are and will be happy to offer advice, guidance and pointers on how you can improve. They can also act as a sounding board and as a fresh pair of eyes to evaluate your potential and monitor your progress.
Your career will benefit from you working on skills that aren’t directly healthcare-related. These soft skills are universal qualities that are helpful to have in any profession, but some are particularly relevant to healthcare. A good example is communication. Being a better communicator will make you a better healthcare provider. It will also help your career to progress as you’ll be able to say exactly what you want to do, and you’ll stand a better chance of being heard by the right people.
Improving your communication skills will enable better and more effective interactions with colleagues and patients. Verbal, written and non-verbal communication skills all play a vital part in delivering effective healthcare. Being able to communicate effectively using technology such as email, online meeting apps and instant messaging platforms, is also essential in today’s healthcare workplace.
Healthcare providers need to earn the trust of their patients and others quickly, often in situations where emotions and stress levels are running high. Eye contact, smiles and open body language are almost as important as what you are saying, and listening effectively is just as crucial as speaking.
Remember to be mindful of cultural differences and sensitivities and the potential for misunderstandings. Context is everything, and your methods of communication should always be appropriate to the circumstances and the people you’re interacting with. Be clear and confident, without being condescending, in order to put worried patients and family members at ease.
Other soft skills
Other soft skills you might want to develop could include leadership, empathy and critical thinking. Critical thinking skills will help you to make informed decisions about treatment plans, ongoing care and many other choices that could have a dramatic effect on an individual’s life. As a healthcare professional, you’ll encounter many situations that aren’t covered by regular protocol. Being able to think logically, consider opposing points of view and come to a firm decision, is vital in these circumstances.
Healthcare is primarily about people, and soft skills are just as essential as technical ones. It’s also important to know how to look after your own health in what is often a very demanding role. Continuing formal education, a clear career plan and paying close attention to your personal qualities can all be helpful in expanding your professional skills.