The world is facing a shortage of healthcare professionals. Licensed physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses are in short supply. The same can be said for anaesthesiologists, pharmacists, and other medical specialists.
From Pennsylvania to Oregon and beyond, demand for healthcare professionals will only increase in the coming years. It adds up to tremendous opportunities for those interested in entering the medical field.
Are you thinking about becoming a healthcare professional? If so, here’s a breakdown of what it takes:
Not everyone is cut out for frontline medical work. If the sight of blood makes you squeamish or needles make you nervous, then the healthcare profession is probably not for you. Furthermore, most medical careers require patience, precision, and thoroughness. Attention to detail and a natural ability to solve problems on the fly will get you far. But a reluctance to take the initiative and hesitation to confront physical trauma head-on means you’re better off looking at careers outside of medicine.
A career in medicine involves a detailed knowledge of biology, chemistry, and physiology. While we don’t want to sell anyone short, those who struggled with these topics in high school might not be cut out for a career in medicine. On the other hand, those who excel at math and science are prime candidates for the medical field. With this in mind, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree with a relevant major. For instance, those wanting to become registered nurses will need to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
You’ll need to earn a graduate degree before becoming a top-level or mid-level healthcare provider. But most schools will require applicants to gain meaningful experience working within the healthcare field. Referred to as healthcare experience (HCE) and patient care experience (PCE), the number of hours required varies from school to school. Generally speaking, most schools look for anywhere from 500 to 1000 hours of combined HCE and PCE experience.
Until now, you might be undecided about which specialized career in medicine you hope to pursue. But you’ll need to pick one before going to graduate school. Do you want to be a nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or other? Once you choose, you’ll need to prepare for the specific entrance examination. For instance, aspiring MDs take the MCAT while aspiring PAs must take the PA-CAT.
It’s safe to say your time in graduate school will be the most challenging stretch. Chances are, you will want to give up at some point. You’re not alone. What separates those who press on from those who give in comes down to grit. How will you react when the chips are down and everything seems to go wrong? The ability to soldier on is the essence of grit. Not only will you need grit to earn your graduate degree, but you’ll also need it to thrive as a medical professional.
Earning your master’s degree or doctorate will be the pinnacle of academic achievement. But to become a practicing medical professional, you’ll need to pass the board review certification process. Certification requirements will depend on your specialty and vary from state to state, but it boils down to sanctioned bodies assessing your abilities and skills for the last time before letting you go out into the world searching for work. Given the stakes involved, it’s not unusual for students to take practice exams before undergoing the real deal.
As mentioned in the introduction, licensed healthcare professionals will have no problem finding work. Demand for nurses and other medical professionals is at an all-time high. With that said, you might discover better-paying opportunities in other cities and states. No matter what, you won’t be looking for work for long. Recruiters might even approach you before you graduate!
Having a pair of letters behind your name goes a long way towards earning the trust and respect owed to healthcare professionals. But over time, it’s your reputation that matters most. Your credibility, professionalism, ethics, and expertise make you the healthcare professional you have dreamed of becoming. Resting on your laurels is an easy way to undo all your hard work up to this point. Never stop being the best you can be, no matter how seemingly comfortable you become in your new line of work. There’s always room for improvement.
Working as a healthcare professional – helping those who need it most – is one of the most rewarding and respected careers out there. But it takes a lot of hard work to get to that point. If you have what it takes, the only question becomes whether or not you’re willing to give it your all.
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