March 2, 2015

Four Surprising Facts about a Career in Healthcare

You may think you know exactly what to expect from a career in healthcare. After all, healthcare is one of the most glamorous professions society has to offer, so TV and movies provide endless depictions of the busy daily lives of nurses, surgeons, EMTs, and hospital administrators.

But some of these depictions are more realistic than others. And rarely do we see TV shows that dramatize the lives of those in medical billing or medical equipment sales. When was the last time you saw a movie featuring a day in the exciting, glamorous life of an onsite medical expert who reviews claims for an insurance provider? Probably never, because this wouldn’t be much of a blockbuster, but this is just one of many satisfying and challenging real-life careers the healthcare industry has to offer. Before you make a commitment to this field, prepare for a few surprises.

1. Healthcare doesn’t always offer clear directions, simple answers, or happy endings

Dr. House always comes up with the answer by the end of the hour. But in real life, a vast percentage of the workings of the human body are still shrouded in mystery, and having a degree doesn’t give a practitioner magical insights into every aspect of medical cause and effect. Dead ends, incorrect diagnoses, and mistakes happen every day in this profession, and the results can be very challenging on an emotional level. Medical professionals need to walk a complicated line between compassion and professional distance.

2. Healthcare jobs aren’t always secure

Over and over again we hear similar phrases about the security of medical positions: “You don’t see many surgeons out of work,” “there’s no such thing as an unemployed nurse,” “jobs are everywhere in medical technology,” and so on. Unfortunately, none of these are one hundred percent true. Unemployment strikes the healthcare profession just like any other industry, and while many of these careers are in high demand, that demand varies with circumstance and geographic location. The opportunities available to a healthcare professional may exist, but they still may require an employee to move across state lines.

3. The options for healthcare professionals are extremely diverse, and getting more so

You may be entering healthcare with one specific, narrow goal in mind. For example, you may have your heart set on becoming a pediatric cardiac nurse with a special focus on emergency care. But as you complete your education, you’ll be exposed to a wider range of professional options than you probably imagine. A few years down the road, you may end up doing something entirely different, but equally satisfying.

4. A large number of healthcare professions don’t involve patient interaction at all

If you love the idea of helping people, but aren’t comfortable with clinical situations, emotional distance (see item 1), or the sight of blood, there are still plenty of professions that offer all the rewards and challenges of healthcare, but none of the patient contact. Consider becoming an epidemiology researcher, a medical publisher, or working in a pathology lab, just for starters. You can also think about medical and pharmaceutical billing, research, sales, or education and outreach.

Don’t Let Anything Stand in Your Way

If you’ve made up your mind to step into the healthcare profession, approach this challenge with clear eyes, and don’t let occasional surprises throw you off track.