Is a Healthcare Career Right for You?
Are you considering a career in healthcare? Don't take the plunge without some advice from Saul Wischnitzer, PhD, coauthor of Health-Care Careers for the 21st Century, a career manual for aspiring healthcare professionals. Monster asked Dr. Wischnitzer for information that would be helpful to students who are contemplating healthcare careers.
Monster: What is the best way for students to decide whether to pursue a career in healthcare?
Dr. Wischnitzer: The first criterion is to see if you have a genuine sense of desire to help other people. If your primary goal is to accumulate huge sums of money, you probably shouldn't go into healthcare. If you do feel that you're the type of person who gains satisfaction from helping others, the next step is to talk to some people who are healthcare professionals and visit facilities that employ various healthcare personnel.
M: How can students decide which healthcare profession is right for them?
DW: I recommend taking an interest inventory test that helps you pinpoint which healthcare careers would be a good fit. These tools will help you determine the qualities you possess that will enable you to reach your goal, and whether you're the type of person who wants to spend two, four or six years or more of time, effort and money studying to become a healthcare professional.
M: Different kinds of healthcare professions require vastly different skills and talents. Are there any skills or characteristics that are essential to all health professionals?
DW: You have to be patient- and service-oriented. You also have to be very careful and conscientious, and pay attention to detail. For example, a nurse has to make sure she gives out the right medication in the right amount, and a pharmacist has to fill the right prescription.
M: Can you offer any tips to students interviewing for their first healthcare job?
DW: The key to getting your first job is knowing how to sell yourself. This means making the best physical appearance possible, knowing your assets and conveying them to the interviewer even if it doesn't come up in the form of a question. At the end of an interview, you could make the point that you are a dedicated, conscientious individual and work well with others. Give an example or two of how you can contribute to the organization. You have to show that you're ready to do the job and that you're a compassionate individual who will represent the company or institution well with patients.
M: The healthcare workforce has been subject to restructuring and downsizing. Is healthcare a risky career choice?
DW: The business aspect of the industry may be tumultuous, but this does not negate the need for healthcare services. It's just a question of how management will operate. And there may be cutbacks, but that applies to any major industry. The critical factor is that society has recognized that the population is living longer, and that this aging population will need care. To provide this care, we have to provide varying types of solutions. Geriatrics is slowly becoming a specialty, and healthcare facilities of various kinds are expanding.
M: Can students predict which healthcare professions will be stable in the future?
DW: You can get a feel for the potential need for a certain profession by looking at Department of Labor projections. But you still have to be flexible. Just a few years ago, there was a tremendous shortage of people in physical therapy, but now there is concern about an overabundance of PTs. These things tend to iron themselves out, though. And if the need isn't there in one location, you have to be willing to relocate.
M: What are some of the relatively new opportunities in healthcare?
DW: Professions that didn't exist at all -- like physician assistants -- are more accepted and appreciated now. There was initial resistance to PAs, but now they're recognized because they can relieve physicians of time-consuming duties. And they gain expertise that will serve them well in the long run. Generally, the people who work as ancillary personnel in the allied-health fields are playing big roles in facilitating and maximizing the efficiency of the healthcare system.
M: What are some emerging opportunities in healthcare?
DW: There is a demand for people with technical skills who can operate sophisticated equipment. Technology is going to have a tremendous impact on medicine. Engineering is playing a big role in advancing medicine. It's making diagnoses quicker, easier and more reliable.
Learn more about healthcare careers.