People in health careers frequently share a number of personal characteristics. The nature of health career positions requires intellectual, interpersonal, and physical skills.
Intellectual Skills. Doctors, physician assistants, and nurses are intelligent people with good memories who are able to learn and retain substantial amounts of information. These health care workers must have a wealth of information at their proverbial fingertips and be able to access their memories quickly for everything from analyzing and treating heart disease to the proper dosage of an uncommon antibiotic. The ability to retain and access a mountain of information provides only the first piece of the intellectual puzzle. Health care providers must use that information in conjunction with patient reports, direct observation, and tests to form a diagnosis and treatment plan for the patient. The second and third pieces of the puzzle, then, depend on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Without that triad of skills, doctors and nurses would not be able to synthesize information to develop a proper evaluation and treatment plan.
These skills are also in demand for support staff and technologists. A medical receptionist, for example, must possess a full complement of office skills as well as the medical knowledge and vocabulary to understand medical instructions and confer with patients. A medical receptionist also needs critical thinking skills to triage phone calls and determine which patients must be seen without delay.
Health care workers must be detail-oriented. Many times, no room exists for error. Transposed numbers or an incomplete record can be quite dangerous, resulting in a wrong dose of medication, an unacknowledged allergy, or a surgery on the wrong part of the body.
People Skills. All health care workers must promote professionalism and confidentiality. As interesting as a case or a patient's story may be, everyone in the medical field must be capable of restraint and able to avoid discussion of cases and patients where others may hear. Maintaining patient confidentiality is not only professional, it is a legal necessity.
Above all, health care is a people business. The most successful and appreciated health care workers will be those with advanced people skills. These skills begin with inherent traits, likely the ones such as empathy, compassion, and a desire to heal and to help, that lead people to health careers in the first place. Health care workers are in the business of taking care of people. Curing illness and treating injuries isn't just about a job done well, it's about making a difference in somebody's life and serving your community. A doctor, nurse, or technologist who truly cares about each patient's welfare will always do his or her best work.
Someone choosing a health career should possess and continue to develop good communication skills. Active listening is critical to gathering information from patients. Communicating often technical information in an easy-to-understand and compassionate way is imperative. This requires a clear, calm speaking voice, strong language skills, and a personable manner.
Effective health care workers treat patients and their families with respect and patience. They understand and address a patient's needs and concerns. The best workers will leave patients feeling secure and trusting in the skills of those around them.
Physical Skills. Many health careers, including physician, nurse, aide, and technologist, require a degree of physical strength and stamina. Workers may need to work extended shifts, spending much of their time on their feet. The ability to help lift people, equipment, and heavy supplies is also necessary. Individuals in direct patient care must also develop a "strong stomach", an ability to professionally and calmly handle injuries and disorders that may offend your senses.
Last Updated: 05/21/2014