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7 Non-Academic Qualities Needed to Work in Healthcare

Healthcare is NOT a glamorous career. I'm not sure if it is the television shows or social media that is creating this false narrative, but healthcare is not glamorous. It is not pretty; it is not easy.

I have worked in healthcare for over 20 years. I started as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), then worked as a registered nurse (RN) before working as a PA. As a CNA, I worked in a nursing home. I worked hard, had many patients assigned to me, and made maybe half of what the nurses made. I dealt with poop, pee, saliva, and feet. I bathed patients, fed them, and walked them. There were rewarding moments, such as hearing a patient's life story or family members sending treats to the staff. There were moments when I didn't feel valued. Everything I experienced as a CNA prepared me for my career trajectory.

As an RN, while I made more money than when I was a CNA, I still had to work hard. I did not escape body fluids, poop, or pee. I still toileted patients, repositioned patients in the bed, transferred patients, and more. I had to exercise more critical thinking and work more across other disciplines.

As a PA, I will say the physical demands lessened, but the mental requirements significantly increased. I worked long hours in certain specialties, odd shifts, and traveled across the city to different hospitals to see patients. I dealt more directly with physicians, some who were great humans and others who were bullies.

I briefly discuss my experiences for you to better understand what it is like to work in healthcare. It isn't easy. It requires a genuine desire to help people, intelligence, patience, resilience, and hard work.

Here are seven important, non-academic things necessary if you want to be a PA or work in healthcare. I do not talk about grades here because that is common knowledge. You want to do your best academically as you pursue a healthcare career. I'm sharing

  1. A genuine desire to help people -- money will never be the reason you stay in the healthcare field

  2. Ability to connect with people-- healthcare is relational. You must be able to connect with people in a very short amount of time

  3. Ambition -- You have to want it and have the fight in you to continue even when it is challenging

  4. Ability to prioritize -- there will be competing priorities and many tasks to complete. Everything cannot be important. You will need to decide what happens first, second, and last.

  5. Empathy -- Putting yourself in someone else's shoes will make you a better caregiver

  6. Confidence -- Trust in yourself to know what you are doing or at least know where to look and who to ask

  7. Courage -- You cannot be afraid to speak up when needed, to do the right thing, or advocate for your patient.

I only gave 7 important qualities you must possess, but I am sure there are more. Feel free to share below. I would love to hear!

Dr. Jackie the PA

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