Are you’re thinking about a career in healthcare but unsure of where to start or what subsector is right for you? Healthcare encompasses so many different strands, so it can be hard to sort through each of them to determine which pathway you want to follow. You don’t want to spend time and money pursuing a career that ultimately doesn’t fit with your skills and attributes or simply doesn’t ignite a fire in you. We spend a significant amount of our lives in the workplace, and so there is arguably no more important a decision than what you choose to do for a career. Pursuing any career path is an investment in your future, so you want to be sure that you’ve landed on something that is right for you.
Healthcare is an umbrella that encompasses a huge number of different specialties and roles. If you’re considering it as a future pathway, then a good place to start is to break down your skills and interests. You can then narrow down which pathways are best suited to the attributes you’ve identified in yourself. You might want to consider talking to other people in your life, such as family, friends, current colleagues, or teachers. Often other people will pick up on qualities that we don’t even know we possess.
Once you’ve got an idea of who you are, what you’re good at, and what you enjoy, you can explore the different roles available within the healthcare industry and begin to narrow it down. As mentioned above, there are hundreds of positions and sectors across the field, and they can’t all be detailed here. Instead, let’s look at a breakdown of some of the core aspects of healthcare that you might fit into. Your perfect role could be an off-shoot or subsection of one of these but, hopefully, you’ll get a clearer idea of where you could start looking.
Strategic and Directive roles
Are you a strategist? Are you someone who is able to see the bigger picture and can also put the pieces together to determine how the end-goal can be achieved? Do you enjoy taking on a leadership or managerial role, shaping strategy, and directing others? Maybe you are an innovator capable of thinking critically, anticipating difficulties, and effectively problem- solving. Perhaps you are practical, realistic, and conscientious, but have the ability to think creatively. If you answered yes to any of these, you could be an asset to the healthcare sector in a strategic or managerial role. If you’re a natural-born leader, there are heaps of different ways to use those sought-after leadership skills, and you’ll have no shortage of career options to explore. You could start by exploring courses which center on managing healthcare delivery and the business side of the industry.
This includes anything which involves directly undertaking medical care with patients, such as testing, diagnosing, and treating. The majority of (though not all) clinical roles are patient-facing. Bear this in mind when you’re considering it for a career. Humans aren’t robots or perfectly conducted laboratory experiments.
If you have the patience, compassion, and resilience to work directly with people, often at a particularly vulnerable and challenging moment in their lives, then you might want to consider a role that allows you to work behind the scenes such as a laboratory setting. However, if you have the people skills to match your medical prowess, then you could be a great asset within a patient-facing clinical setting. Of course, this encompasses many roles, and finding the right one for you will depend on what area of medicine captures your interest. It could also be influenced by the time and expense you are willing to spend on achieving your career goals and the work-life balance you’re looking for. Becoming a primary-care physician, a surgeon, or a consultant in a specialized field will be a significantly greater time and financial commitment than becoming a registered nurse, a surgical assistant or a patient care technician, to name just a few examples.
It’s worth noting that there are a variety of ways you can specialize below the MD level. Nursing could offer you the opportunity to specialize in a particular field such as pediatrics, oncology, radiology, infectious diseases, and the list just goes on. You can also explore leadership options within nursing, such as becoming a DNP nurse executive. This is a great role if you enjoy the patient-facing aspect of clinical care but would also like to have a greater role in decision making and shaping the practice at a more strategic level.
Perhaps you’re not keen on getting hands-on with providing medical care to patients. If so, you might be better suited to the crucial but often behind-the-scenes running of a healthcare service. Administration is the backbone of any healthcare service, and administrators have an enormous part to play in the safe and effective operation of a medical facility. When we think about healthcare, we often neglect to think of the administrative services without which the whole enterprise might fall apart.
Some administrative roles will involve patient interaction. You might be the front-facing professional for the service and the first person a patient comes into contact with either in person or over the phone. You could play an essential role in putting patients at ease, communicating information clearly and effectively, and ensuring that their care is properly organized. Administrators can often form the bridge between patients and healthcare professionals as well as between healthcare professionals within and across services.
If you’re highly organized, diligent, and have a good head for data, this could be the role for you. Administrative staff manage a huge amount of sensitive patient information; they can be responsible for coding and disseminating information and tasks appropriately to ensure that patients receive the proper care. Administrators are often responsible for managing the information conveyed by the service to a patient or a community. They give structure and organization to the services being provided and ensure that everything is in its place to allow medical care to be properly carried out.
There’s something for you.
The list of possible careers within the healthcare sector is much longer than your arm, and there are substantial subsections that aren’t touched upon here. However, if you want to determine whether a healthcare role could be right for you, this is a broad breakdown that could help you to start narrowing the search. Whatever your attributes, there is almost certainly a profession that meets your criteria and could offer a fulfilling career trajectory. Take the time needed to explore the options available, talk to as many people within the industry as you can, and be prepared to work hard to achieve your goals. Like anything, you will get out what you put in.