Healthcare is competitive, team-oriented, and focused on patient care (even in jobs like IT or accounting where you may never have direct patient contact).
Because of this, you’ll need certain soft skills — or personal qualities — that you can’t learn in a school or find in a book. Soft skills can be just as important as technical skills when it comes to getting a new job, or advancing in your career.
In order to make sure that a patient gets good healthcare, information needs to be shared effectively. But sometimes people are upset, rushed, speak another language, or, in the case of patients, may even have conditions that make speaking hard or impossible. You need good listening skills, and you need to pick the right times and ways to give information to patients, families and co-workers. It might seem like a small thing, but bad communication in healthcare is dangerous.
Empathy is “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.” In other words, empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The World Health Organization identifies this soft skill as the most important element of communication with patients: “The key is to care about the patient as a person, to recognize that this is a human being like you, who is sick and perhaps in pain, who is in need of your help.”
No matter what your job, you are part of an “interdisciplinary” health care team that includes other professionals, such as physicians, IT, pharmacists, physical therapists and social workers. You need to be a team player, and be willing to put aside personal goals, grudges or frustrations to make sure that everyone around you can do their jobs.
Most healthcare environments have a very fast pace. You are busy all of the time and may have mutiple people asking things from you at once. To deal with this, you need good judgment and you need to be able to make quick decisions that take in all of the facts. In many situations, there is not one “right” answer. There is only a “best” answer based on many different pieces of information.
Ability to Multitask
In healthcare, it is unlikely that you will ever be able to have just one task that you get to follow-through to completion before you start the next one. Instead, you will have to deal with many things that all need to be done at once. You will need to be able to think through complex tasks and set priorities.
Dealing with Stress
Many people enter healthcare because they want to help others, but this personal motivation can also cause stress. You need to be able to not let occasional mistakes, busy days, angry patients or worried family members stop you from doing your job.
Western Mass has many diverse communities that include immigrants and a variety of cultures and lifestyles. Part of helping people as a healthcare professional means that you understand and value differences – and know how to act when you encounter them. This doesn’t just mean with patients. You will also find yourself working with a diverse team with co-workers from all over the world. Learn more about cultural competence and take the cultural competence quiz.