Generally speaking, students should explore various careers in health and medicine to help determine the right pathway. Before you start your health career journey, it is important to reflect and evaluate your interests, values, and strengths. The sections below are the start of the reflection and evaluation process to find the best heath and medicine career fit for your personal and career objectives.
Questions to Consider
- Do you like to interact with people? Healthcare occupations vary depending on the depth and frequency of patient interaction. For example, nurses and occupational therapists see a high volume of patients in their practice so it is important for them to have a particularly warm and caring personality. On the other hand, medical technologists and biostatisticians are more task-centered in their work wherein their practice involves little to no personal contact with patients. These type of settings can be found in pharmacies, laboratories, or corporate/nonprofit/government offices, just to name a few.
- Are you comfortable with science? Science is a common subject many pre-health students take over the course of their undergraduate career. While some fields incorporate a high degree of science, others need a much lower amount of science. Common science subjects include: chemistry, physics, and biology; programs may also require exposure to some laboratory sciences, which usually accompany the respective lecture.
- Are you prepared to keep up with the developments in the field? Healthcare is a continually evolving field, which reflect the advances in technology, improvements in clinical settings, and changes in patient demands over time. Good health care practitioners are committed to providing the best care, which requires continuous studying and learning which may lead to additional training even after you’ve already established your practice. Re-certifications and continuing education are common in many health fields.
- Are you comfortable in a healthcare setting? In many health careers, your work environment may involve the company of sick, disabled, or dying patients. You may work in a hospital, a community health center, a private practice office, or even a patient’s home. You may live in the city, the sub-urn, or in under-served areas, which are often in the rural or inner-city neighborhoods. In addition, you may be a member of a small staff or a huge organization and may be working at the local, state, or even national level. There are many different healthcare settings; the challenge is to find the best fit for you.
- Are you a team player? Healthcare is a team-driven industry. A doctor alone cannot diagnose and treat the patient; it is a group effort that often involves different health and medicine careers: a medical technologist can process patient samples while a pharmacist explains the prescribed medication to the patient. A patient’s recovery relies on the collaborative ability of a healthcare team and how each team member performs their specific function. Even healthcare professionals who work in private practice usually interact closely with staff members and colleagues.
- What lifestyle do you envision? How do you feel about facing life-and-death situations on a daily basis? How do you feel about working extremely long hours, coping with stressful emergencies, and shouldering heavy responsibilities? How much time do you want to spend at work, versus at home? Be realistic and honest with yourself. If you feel that you can handle long workdays and are capable of handling stress, then pursue a health career that will demand that of you. However, there are still plenty of other fulfilling health careers that do not have such rigorous demands. The bottom line is: choose the career you ultimately want, even if the path is long.
Other Factors to Consider
- Comfort Level of Handling Bodily Fluids. Occupations in healthcare vary greatly regarding the handling of bodily fluids such as blood, urine, and saliva. Some professions require daily handling of bodily fluids while others do not require you to even see bodily fluids.
- Job Outlook. Professional careers in healthcare are growing rapidly, not only in terms of the number of jobs available, but also in terms of what kinds of jobs are available. Healthcare is expected to continue growing as our population increases and ages.
- Stability. These fields offer relatively high stability: jobs may last for many years, and due to demand, new jobs are being added.
- Mobility. Careers in healthcare offer exceptional geographic mobility because jobs in these fields are everywhere. In terms of vertical mobility, careers in healthcare tend to be static, tied to the degree completed. In general, you train for and remain in a specific career. Changing careers requires additional education, training, and licensing.