How to Pick the Right Healthcare Career
Trying to determine a career path can be challenging, and narrowing down options from general industry to exact roles can present learners with a vast number of options. Even when a learner decides that they want to pursue a career in healthcare, there are many choices available based on interests, subspecialties and areas of practice. This is why, when inquiring about how to pick the right healthcare career, learners should consider a few key points.
Determine Which Healthcare Careers Best Reflect a Learner’s Interests
The healthcare field spans across many different workplace environments and encompasses countless positions and responsibilities. Before selecting a particular healthcare occupation, prospective employees must assess and determine what they enjoy learning about. They should also reflect upon how they choose to spend their free time, and if there is a career in healthcare that expands on these hobbies.
One way to achieve this is by writing down everything one likes to do versus everything one dislikes doing. Then, using this information, determine which qualities are involved. With a list of notable characteristics, learners can research individual healthcare career options to see if they align with the qualities and interests they favor.
Personality traits such as interests are important in the career decision-making process, because certain healthcare careers demand a specific set of characteristics. For example, Registered Nurses (RNs) should generally be kind, compassionate and caring. This is because patients rely on them to ensure that they are getting the proper care and treatment. Alternatively, Surgeons must be meticulous, focused and detail-oriented to guarantee each surgical procedure is a success. Veterinarians and Veterinary Technicians must possess a love for animals and strong logical reasoning skills to determine an animal’s ailment.
Consider What Would Be an Ideal Workspace
The setting in which a healthcare worker spends their professional time is largely dependent on the position itself. Likewise, when selecting a career in healthcare, learners should assess where they could physically see themselves working. While for others this involves working in a laboratory, for others their “office” is in a primary care setting. Beyond enclosed spaces, there are even some healthcare careers that require workers to spend their time outdoors treating athletes on a field, or on a farm tending to livestock. Workplace settings can be as diverse or traditional as the learner wishes them to be.
For example, Animal Laboratory Caretakers spend their time in labs largely owned by government entities and private companies. Psychologists and Psychiatrists remain inside an office or series of offices throughout most of their days, although many perform home visits as well. However, Physical Therapists can treat patients anywhere they may be injured or recovering.
“The lifestyle of a PT really depends on the work setting. Some of us dress up in suit and tie, some wear khakis and polos to work at an office and others wear gym shorts and t-shirts and work at a gym. The one constant here is that the majority of us are health conscious,” Michael Masi, DPT, a PT practicing in North Carolina, said.
Many occupations, such as that of Licensed Practical Nurses, have traveling positions available. In these roles, workers can travel either nationally or internationally to treat patients where there is a need. Another option that many healthcare workers choose to pursue is a remote, work-from-home situation. For some, this helps employees to feel more comfortable, and for others working from home simply offers greater convenience and flexibility.
“The ease in finding employment truly depends on where you want to work, as some areas tend to have more openings than others,” Barnett explained. “One possibility to consider is that LVNs can seek out traveling positions, which is exciting. This is just one of the many opportunities to consider when searching for employment,” Robin Barnett, an LPN practicing in Tennessee, explained.
Clearly Identify Goals and the Path to Reaching Them
Not everyone begins their career in healthcare working in the position they would like to ultimately see themselves. In the case of many lucractice leadership roles, the journey to a career starts by pursuing a lower- or entry-level position and working up the employment ladder. However, there are healthcare careers that, with the proper educational requirements and certifications, can launch someone directly into their desired position.
For example, to become a Podiatrist, professionals must first pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in a related science, taking courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physics. Roughly a year before graduating from an undergraduate program, learners should take their Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Once a learner has graduated from an undergraduate degree program and secured their MCAT score, they can apply to their desired medical schools and subsequent Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) programs.
After graduating from a DPM program, learners must additionally complete a four-year podiatric medicine and surgery (PMSR) residency program within a hospital setting. Lastly, all Podiatrists must become licensed by passing the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE), offered by the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners.
“I spent four years in college, four years in podiatry school and three years in a surgical residency. Some Podiatrists also choose to pursue one to two years of fellowship training,” Hai-En Peng, DPM, FACFAS, a Podiatrist practicing in California confirmed.
Exemplifying a healthcare career where a learner needs to start at a more elementary title and become promoted into the position is the role of an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist. To become a Safety Consultant, professionals must obtain a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety, or begin as Occupational Health and Safety Technologists. To become an OHST a learner must obtain an associate’s degree in occupational health and safety or pursue a certificate program.
“Networking and building relationships are [also] very important. Schooling and accreditation are valuable and may open doors to new opportunities,” Mark Patton, an Occupational Health and Safety Technician practicing in California, said.
Overall, before choosing a career in healthcare, learners must identify what they are looking for in a lifestyle, as a workplace, and in terms of their long-term goals. Once these elements are determined, a learner can best prepare themselves for a rewarding and fulfilling healthcare career.