How and why should you future-proof your career in health?

Last Updated: 17 May 2022

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Sometimes – no matter how much you love it – you outgrow your chosen career path, especially in an industry as demanding as healthcare. Maybe you’re maturing out of the ideal demographic for your area of practice? Or maybe you’re hitting a point where you no longer have the same ability to carry out the tasks you used to love? Or maybe you’re feeling the effects of the past few years in the form of burnout and stress?

This is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it should be embraced: there’s no point staying in a role or area of practice that is no longer serving you. Just because you want to move into a lateral area or away from clinical work doesn’t mean you’re abandoning healthcare or the idea of helping people in your day-to-day.

To give you a good idea of how you can make the most of your future career, we’ll discuss two things:

  1. Future-proofing: when to start, what to focus on and where to find resources.

  2. Options in the industry: roles and areas where your healthcare skills will be useful.

For example, if a registered ICU nurse has kids going into secondary school, she may want to move away from such long shifts, night work and emotionally-exhausting clinical work. Having assessed her strengths, she wants to become a leading hospital administrator and director: how can she get there? Is an MBA the best way to go, or should she complete a business skills course sponsored by her current employer?

In this piece, you’ll find a list of options that can help you change – or even just control – your professional trajectory. The healthcare industry is a wonderful place to work because there is the potential to do so many different things with so many different skills – whether they’re clinical, inter-personal, education or administrative.

What are some strategies for future-proofing your career?

Make a skill inventory

It’s hard to toot your own horn, especially when you’re making a case for your own professional advancement – whether that takes the form of applying for a job or asking for subsidised training.

To take the pressure off, it’s handy to have a list of skills in your back pocket. Additionally, having a concrete example linked to each skill is not only handy for an interview: it’s also great to have a clear catalogue of experiences and strengths that can guide your aspirations for the future.

For example, Kamil may have sat on a conference panel a few years ago for young people in paramedicine. Looking back on it, he remembers how much he enjoyed the public speaking and discussion with other members of the industry. Having listed this and compared his other skills, he’s realised he might be interested in a future in union or policy work.

If you’re struggling to think of any, speak to your current or past managers and team leaders. They may be able to identify your strengths better than you can!

Keep up your technological skills

Don’t freak out! By keeping up your technological skills, we don’t mean that you have to know how to build a website from scratch or develop an app. You just need to have the basic usability skills that make it easy for you to learn how to use certain software: for example, having the functional language to describe troubleshooting errors is essential because it helps you convey any issues you’re having to the organisation’s IT support team (or the office tech wiz!).

A great way to do this is to download some simple apps that help you understand UI (user interface) and UX (user experience), such as Duolingo or Facebook. UI and UX influence how developers create websites, web pages, apps and software with the aim to make them as user-friendly as possible. Once you understand how UI and UX work in flagship software such as Facebook, you can intuitively navigate almost any site you’ll need.

Don’t neglect your soft skills!

‘Soft’ skills are the ones that help you work with others. In other words, they’re universal and incredibly important! No matter where you’re headed, you need to be able to work in a team, lead a group and problem solve within whatever organisation you end up working with.

Given the patient-facing nature of most healthcare industry work, you probably have a long list of soft skills already! This goes back to the first point: make sure you know which soft skills you have, and choose which ones you want to expand upon.

Maybe you have the potential to be an expert negotiator, which could lead you down a path of professional patient advocacy? Or maybe you’re great at adapting to – and understanding – group social dynamics, which could lead to a career in HR conflict resolution?

Soft skills are truly a treasure trove of options! Use this list to see if you have some already: List of Soft Skills (with examples) – The Balance Careers.



What are some options available to you?

Services administration

Services administration is the kind of work that attracts organised, level-headed and empathetic people. It’s just an added benefit if you’ve previously worked in healthcare, as you’ll understand what the medical staff – and patients – need from you in terms of running the ward or clinic.

This is ideal for:

  • People who love healthcare but do not wish to bee clinically providing care anymore.

  • People who have sustained injuries that limit their mobility, and perhaps stop them from being able to provide bedside care.

Some skills that transfer well into services administration are:

  • Medical nous: it’s not essential to understand the ins and outs of the medical personnel’s activities, but if you’ve moved from a nursing role into a service administration role, you’ll find it easy to stay on top of ward management – because you’ll have been on the other side of it!

  • Communication: while medical nous is not essential, communication skills definitely are. This kind of role relies heavily on your ability to act as a thread that weaves through the whole department or ward. If you’re someone who can keep their own in a long and perhaps arduous conversation after a long shift, this sort of role could definitely be for you.

  • Organisation and people management: this applies to both medical personnel – such as nurses, doctors and other staff members – as well as patients. You’re the font of knowledge for the area you’re in charge of!

From a mid-level services administration role – such as a senior ward clerk – you could shoot off into union-management, medical administration, and hospital and clinic management – all while keeping your place inside the healthcare industry.

Policy creation and advocacy

As we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the impending climate crisis, more needs to be done on a state and federal government level in order to prepare Australia’s healthcare system for the medical fallout of these disasters. As such, we need more healthcare professionals in positions where they can influence policy and funding allocation.

This is ideal for:

  • People who are actively interested in politics and make deeply-informed decisions at each local, state and federal election.

  • People who are confident in a discussion regarding fundamental issues and differences, including social justice and climate as it relates to the healthcare system.

  • People who have been disappointed or frustrated with the state of health funding in Australia, and want someone to step up and make a difference (if this is you, then consider yourself as the person who should step up to make a difference!).

Some skills that would transfer easily into policy are:

  • Written communication: if you can write your opinions down but falter at the thought of public speaking, maybe policy is your area to shine!

  • Critical discussion: it’s essential that you don’t back away from a discussion as a policy-maker or influencer. Whether you’re sitting in parliament or working within a healthcare-politics advocacy group, you need to be able to hear other peoples' opinions, process them and articulate them in print.

  • Collaboration: In policy creation or advocacy, you’ll be working with others to reach agreements, create reports and conduct research. You'll never be working alone, so it’s great that healthcare has (most likely!) prepared you for high-stakes teamwork.

From an entry-level role within an advocacy program or organisation, you can really go anywhere. In this sort of position, you’ll learn a huge amount of soft skills that will give you the option to easily transition into other roles, regardless of the industry you’re looking to work in.

Education

We might be biased, but we here at Ausmed believe education is one of the best ways to stay tapped into the healthcare industry if you’re deciding to move away from clinical practice!

This is ideal for:

  • People with a passion for developing curriculums or engaging with managers to identify competency gaps.

  • People who want to close or narrow the education and opportunity gap between the metropolitan healthcare industry and the regional/remote healthcare industry.

  • People who want to travel as they work, or who want to work remotely or in a freelance capacity.

Some skills you’d need to be a healthcare educator would be:

  • Public speaking: a lot of your teaching will be to adults in large groups, so you’ll be ahead of the game if you’re already comfortable delivering a speech to a crowd.

  • Research: to educate others, you need to be at the forefront of your chosen area of expertise. By no means do you have to be actively publishing research – you just have to know where to find high-quality evidence, and use it to inform your teaching.

  • Networking: depending on where you work, networking will be a huge asset to your list of skills. If you’re a health educator working in an organisation, it’s helpful to have a network from which you can draw guest speakers and educators. If you’re a freelance or consultant health educator, you need to use an active and well-maintained network to ‘sell’ your education to relevant people.

As a healthcare educator, you have the option to either keep your area of expertise broad or make it incredibly niche. The more niche you are, the more your expertise will be in demand to those who relate to it – however, you don’t want to become so niche that you make your expertise irrelevant to most of the industry.

What now?

These are by no means the only options available to you: as long as you can find a niche or an avenue that demands your combination of skills, you’ve got a role!

To learn more about how three of Ausmed’s educators have managed to stay mobile and dynamic in the industry, watch the following:

Whatever you do, don’t settle for less than a job you’re satisfied with. Burnout, stress and boredom in the workplace can seep into your everyday life, so be proactive in your career progression!

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