6 Tips for Advancing in Your Healthcare Career

When it comes to job demand, you can rest assured that you’ll always have opportunities in healthcare. However, if you want to earn more competitive jobs with better hours and higher pay, you’ll need to set yourself apart. What follows are several tips to help you do just that.

1. Continue Your Education

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Education is not something you do – it’s a way of life. And if you’re in a healthcare profession, you can’t just sit back and rest on your college degree or some certification that you got several years ago. Continuing education is a must.

For instance, respiratory therapists must take online continuing education courses from places like LastMinuteCEU’s on an ongoing basis to remain licensed. The same goes for nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors, and anyone else who regularly interacts with patients.

Don’t put off continuing education until the last minute, either. This typically leads you to just check off the proverbial box, rather than actually pay attention and acquire the skills you need to advance in your career.

2. Become a Leader

It’s not just about your education. Being a fast-climber in your industry requires you to also be a leader. That means taking your job seriously, encouraging others, accepting accountability when there’s failure, pushing those around you to be better, and always making necessary sacrifices so that your patients and coworkers achieve the best possible outcomes. Leaders get recognized (and promoted).

3. Network Like You Mean It

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As the old cliche goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. This is certainly true in the world of healthcare, where hiring and promotion decisions are often based on a person’s familiarity with the ones calling the shots. We’re not telling you to suck up to people or do anything illegal. We are, however, encouraging you to build healthy relationships with as many people as possible. You never know when a coworker or superior will go on to be someone who calls the shots or makes hiring decisions. If you treat everyone like they’ll eventually be above you, you’ll have a lot more success.

4. Cultivate Soft Skills

You can’t get very far in any healthcare career without developing the technical skills required to do the job. An anesthesiologist, for example, has to be able to put people under (and keep them under) with no complications. However, there’s more to it than that. They also need to cultivate the appropriate soft skills (including a confident and empathetic bedside manner).

5. Stay Out of Workplace Politics

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Office politics and drama are everywhere. Very early on in your career, you’ll have to make a decision about whether or not you’re going to participate in these toxic parts of the organization. And even though it can be very difficult to stay out of the mix, removing yourself from these situations will help you stay focused on work and become a true leader in the workplace.

Avoiding workplace drama is all about setting the proper expectation. It’s hard to remain neutral and stay out of things. Make it clear to people that you aren’t interested. You can do this without sounding like a jerk to the person who is trying to engage you in what they probably see as a harmless conversation.

For example, if a coworker comes to you and starts telling a story they heard about another coworker, you can politely say something like: “Oh, I actually haven’t heard that yet. It sounds like an interesting story, but I’ll let Amy tell me herself. I know it’s easy for rumors to get started, so I like to give people a chance to tell it themselves.”

When you say something like this, the other person will typically backtrack very quickly. (They won’t want the other person to know that they were talking about them.) And you can bet they won’t bring drama like that to you again.

6. Learn to Manage Stress

It doesn’t matter what healthcare specialty you’re in. Working in this industry comes with a lot of stress. Between demanding hours, emotional outcomes, and weighty responsibilities, it’s enough to make even the strongest person crumble under the weight of it all.

Learning to manage stress well in the midst of pressure and chaos will bode well for your longevity in this career. Balance is everything in this industry. You can’t continuously work 50- and 60-hour weeks at the expense of your own personal life, relationships, hobbies, and interests.

The key to achieving work-life balance (and reducing stress) is to become a better steward of your time. Never assume you’ll find time – you have to be proactive about creating space for your life away from work.

“In the beginning of every week, create a weekly calendar and map out your priorities, including work, exercise, family time, and personal time,” Barton Associates suggests. “How much you spend on each priority is up to you, but it’s important that you dedicate at least part of your 24-hour day to each one.”

Not only do you need to prioritize work-life balance, but you also need to integrate healthy habits, like regular exercise, into your daily routines. Smart lifestyle choices like these help to neutralize the effects of stress and keep your mind and body functioning at a high capacity.

Create a Plan

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You don’t need to have every single detail of your career planned out, but you should have some sort of structured developmental plan in place for where you want to go. This allows you to identify the missing pieces and gaps that exist between where you currently are and where you want to be in three, five, or 10 years. For best results, this should be a documented plan that’s written out and stored somewhere you can access it frequently.

“A good plan allows you to identify your career path goals, your strengths, your development opportunities and specific action steps you can take to achieve your career goals,” writes Brenda Benner, organizational development project manager. “You should also be able to target specific completion dates and success measures to help you stay on track and celebrate your successes.”

Your plan will obviously evolve over time, but it’s nice to have something to aim for. This keeps you in growth mode (rather than sitting back and waiting on something to happen).