One of the core UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is good health and well-being. Health is, without a doubt, one of the most important things we all wish to have. Without good health, almost nothing else can be accomplished. Epidemics such as ebola hinder most human activities. As such, promoting good health is essential in every community– and even more so in developing countries where there is a shortage of skilled health workers.
Health is a field that offers a wide range of careers. If you hope to contribute to advancing the health of your country or community, a career in health is one of the first places you need to consider. But what does it take to be a professional in the healthcare industry? Can anyone become a medical doctor or a surgeon? What soft skills do you need to thrive as a professional in the healthcare industry? Keep reading to find out.
Is a Career in Healthcare Suited for You?
Almost everyone expects students who excel in their studies to pursue a career in medicine. For most people, excelling in academics means that one is capable of being a good doctor or a good nurse. But is academic excellence all it takes to be a successful healthcare worker?
The short answer is no. Technical skills alone are not enough to ensure your success or even your happiness in the healthcare industry. Before you decide to undertake the training needed to become a worker in healthcare, you need to reflect very carefully about who you are as a person and what are your personal strengths and weaknesses. Below are a few questions you need to ask yourself:
- What are your long-term goals?
- Are you aware of the time and cost needed to train as a healthcare worker?
- What do you consider to be an ideal work environment?
- Do you have a particular field within healthcare that you want to work in?
- How do you define success in your daily life?
These questions are important because they help you understand whether you are pursuing a career in healthcare for the right reasons. For instance, if your main long-term goal is only making good money, then the healthcare industry might not be ideal for you. On the other hand, if you hope to make a tangible difference in your community’s health, then a career as a nurse or a doctor could be suitable for you. Similarly, if you cannot imagine working a night shift or being called for an emergency surgery during the weekend, healthcare is probably not the best industry for you. Below are some key soft skills that you need to thrive in healthcare.
1. Excellent Communication Skills
Whether you want to become a nurse, a doctor, or a pharmacist, communication is going to be one of the most important skills that you will need. This is because you will be interacting with patients on a regular basis, and to carry out successful diagnosis, you will need to know how to communicate clearly and precisely with them. When you give prescriptions, you will also need to be very clear in your communication otherwise your patients may have trouble following designated treatment options. Outside of interaction with your patients, you will also be expected to communicate well with your colleagues. For instance, if you work as a nurse, you will often need to communicate regularly with doctors and surgeons, and the better your communication skills are, the better your performance at work will be.
But if you are not a naturally good communicator, this does not mean that you should give up your dream of working in healthcare. There are several ways in which you can improve your communication skills. For instance, you could begin by taking some communication and language courses. Outside of the classroom, you can join debate and public speaking clubs where you can practice and improve your communication skills.
2. Time Management
Careers in healthcare are time-consuming. This is especially true when an unexpected health crisis, for example an epidemic such as Covid-19, strikes. You have most likely seen how long healthcare workers had to spend in hospitals attending to the large numbers of patients who had contracted the infection. But even in the absence of sudden health emergencies, a core skill that health workers use on a daily basis is good time management. As a nurse or a doctor, you are expected to meet patients on time and coordinate with your colleagues in a timely fashion. Failure to manage your time well can lead to disastrous consequences for the patients under your care. If you are thinking of a career in health, it is therefore crucial to begin ramping up your time management skills and doing away with procrastination.
The healthcare industry is one of the most collaborative fields. For instance, a physician does not do his work alone. Neither does a nurse nor a pharmacist. A doctor relies on nurses to prepare patients for any medical procedures and pharmacists to dispense prescribed medicines. Without good teamwork, it is virtually impossible for the healthcare industry to function properly. If you are a loner who prefers to do everything by yourself, then you need to think twice about pursuing a career in healthcare.
4. Curiosity and Adaptability
Healthcare is constantly evolving. New discoveries about diseases and modes of treatment are made every other day. As a healthcare worker, it is your job to keep up with all the latest developments. As such, you not only need to be curious about what is going on in the industry but also make time to familiarize yourself with any new modes of improving the welfare of patients. If you are repelled by the idea of keeping abreast of new research and learning new skills on a regular basis, then you need to think twice before getting into the healthcare industry. On the other hand, if you are a curious person who enjoys learning new things all the time, then you have a good chance of succeeding as a nurse, physician, or pharmacist.
What do you do when you are confronted with people in extreme pain? Are you horrified and dumbstruck or can you converse and soothe them with your words? In the healthcare field, you will encounter patients in extreme physical and mental distress. A core skill you will need while interacting with them is empathy: the ability to imagine yourself in their shoes and treating them as you would like to be treated if you were in such a position. If you are someone who gets distressed by the pain of others to such an extent that you cannot offer them any comfort, then you may need to reassess your dream of pursuing a career in healthcare. But if you always know what to do when confronted by people in physical and mental pain, then a career in health might just be perfect for you.
6. Responsibility and Accountability
Working in healthcare involves very high stakes. Making an error as a doctor, a pharmacist, or as a nurse can easily lead to loss of lives. As such, if you choose to work in healthcare, you will need to have a high level of responsibility. You cannot afford to make careless mistakes, and in the event that you do, you have to take responsibility for your actions. If you are a person who evades responsibility and prefers to blame others when things go wrong, then a career in healthcare is not something you should pursue. A successful career in healthcare entails extreme attention to detail and being accountable for one’s actions. Should you make the decision to pursue a career in healthcare, you need to learn early how to be both responsible and accountable for your actions.
Is a Career In Global Health Right For You
As you can see, a career in healthcare requires more than excellent grades. Soft skills play a big role in whether you are going to succeed in your career as a healthcare professional. If you do not take the time to reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses and how they will affect your career in health, you may find yourself wasting plenty of valuable time jumping from one degree course to another. As a student or young professional from a developing country, you have a big role to play in the advancement of healthcare in your country – but before you embark on that journey, take the time to assess your soft skills.