Whether you’re in your first or last year of medical school, the chances are that the pandemic has put you in a position you never foresaw. Suddenly, your surgical or ward-based dreams may seem like they’re fast becoming impossibilities. Certainly, many students have decided to pursue alternative routes, at least for the time being, while pandemic life plays out in hospitals across the world. Luckily the pandemic needn’t leave your medical career on life support if you don’t want it to. In fact, if you have the strength to stomach it, increasing pressure on healthcare workers could see you landing your dream job much sooner than you might have otherwise. 

Admittedly, with many universities going online, practicality may dictate you can’t continue for now, especially if you were just starting your courses. If you’re a little further along, though, changing careers now would be more about the personal than the practical. And, shifting your outlook could be all it takes to push past those blockades.

It should go without saying that no one will judge you for wanting to steer clear of ward work right now. The last year has seen our hospitals more overwhelmed than ever, and the work you’ll undertake looks very different from how you likely expected it to. That said, if the idea of working in a coronavirus ward doesn’t put you off, then it’s past time to get things back on track. And, we’ve got some tips to help you do just that. 

#1 – Ask some difficult questions

Healthcare teams across the world are facing difficult situations daily, so your first step towards success here is to ask yourself some difficult questions. Namely, it’s time to get real about whether this is the right path to follow. Even if you think a healthcare career is everything you want, you need more resolve now than ever. If you’re struggling to have faith even a little that this is the right path, then you might want to hold off. After all, you’re about to face 12+ hour shifts, A&E trials that would challenge even experienced healthcare workers, and more. 

Even if you’re certain that this is for you, it’s time to ask whether you can handle what’s about to hit. After all, while all medical personnel deal with death and deteriorating patients, pandemic-related death tolls right now are at an all-time high, meaning that you may see multiple losses per shift, as well as juggling many patients on life support. 

This is, quite literally, healthcare on tenterhooks but, if these questions don’t leave you queasy, then you can bet you’ve got what it takes to succeed regardless.

#2 – Relearn your industry

While it can seem strange to think of healthcare as an industry, this is something that every medical student must do at some stage. After all, the medical world experiences industry trends and changes just like any other sector and never is that more the case than this past year. 

The good news is that healthcare is a largely recession-proof sector, meaning that there will always be jobs here. Sadly, pay levels aren’t always reflective of the work involved, especially at the moment. While few people join this world for the money, this is a consideration worth taking. After all, you’ll work harder in healthcare right now than in near enough any other industry. If the pay rate doesn’t reflect that struggle for you then it’s worth reconsidering your focus. 

Equally, it’s vital to note the other changes afoot, including the increase in so-called ‘telemedicine’. Telephone appointments and diagnosis have, admittedly, been on the back burner for a few years now. Still, experts predict that the pandemic has accelerated growth here by as much as a decade, meaning many future patient-doctor interactions will be via phone. 

Infrastructures also look set to undergo significant changes in the covid aftermath, with the introduction of retirement networks and more. Meanwhile, we’re set to enter a time when nurses etc. look set to play much larger medical roles, with as much as 70% of primary care expected to fall on their shoulders. 

Understanding and preparing for changes like these provide you with the knowledge you need to succeed while making sure that you know precisely what you’re signing up for. 

#3 – Adjust to new safety standards

One of the largest changes in healthcare industries of late is that of the safety standards in place. While medical-grade scrubs and surgical caps for work have always been medical musts, equipment alone has changed ten-fold this past year. Now, your daily gear will include everything from visors through to gloves and more. To stay well within regulations, you need to be sure precisely what PPE you should wear, how often you should change it, and more.

Note, too, that you need to take the time to understand distancing rules, hand washing regulations, and even cleaning standards around the hospital. Each of these has changed ten-fold in recent months and continues to do so as the situation unfolds. Keep on top so that you can forever keep yourself and your patients safe once you start practicing.

#4 – Utilize increasing demand

Speaking of starting to practice, this may happen sooner than you think. If one clear thing has come out of coronavirus, it’s the need for more healthcare workers. Even pre-pandemic, the USA was on-track for some worrying healthcare shortages by 2025. In fact, according to a study by Mercer consulting firm, we were fast on the way to shortages of around 29,400 nurse practitioners alone. And, as you can probably guess, these figures have only skyrocketed of late. 

In reality, this issue has come more to the fore for a range of reasons. Even before the ripples caused by 2020, shortages looked set to rein due to increasingly aging populations and a lack of new medical talent. Those issues haven’t changed, but we also now face the reality of hospitals that are more overworked than they ever could’ve anticipated. 

All of this adds together to say that demand in the healthcare sector is at an all-time high right now. And, if you jump on that opportunity, you could help rather than hinder your healthcare prospects.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare jobs across the board are set to increase by 14% come 2028. What’s more, earnings are set to soar right alongside them, with home health aides, in particular, enjoying an estimated 36% pay increase. And, all of these are benefits your career could enjoy if you take action while the sun doesn’t shine.

#5 – Seek work experience sooner rather than later

Along roughly the same lines, now is your time to shine where work experience is concerned. The ability to complete residencies and gain on-job experience has always been a medical pre-requisite, but most students have to wait before they can earn from their efforts.

Since the pandemic began, however, countless states across the US have thrown medical students nearing the end of their studies in at the deep end. Some have even enjoyed early graduations. What’s more, medical students in states like New York have been able to start earning sooner than they would have as they’ve been given the option to work ahead of earning their medical licenses. 

All of this is fantastic news for not only advancing your career but also for giving your finances a boost in advance. Instead of turning away from your studies, then, take this chance to seek work experience where you can. If you haven’t been approached already, talk to your college advisors. The chances are that they’ll at least be able to arrange placements that see you gaining experience in the most adverse medical conditions of our lifetimes. 

#6 – Prepare from a mental standpoint

Lastly, it’s worth noting that you need to prepare yourself from a mental standpoint. This is always the case when entering any career, but is especially vital for healthcare students right now. After all, you’re about to enter a field that includes high-stress levels alongside some pretty distressing workplace sights. Even among experienced Chinese medical staff, a cross-sectional study of 1257 healthcare workers across 34 hospitals revealed significant reports of depression, anxiety, and insomnia among other issues.

With this in mind, you need to leverage your mental wellbeing before you enter a medical working environment. Methods for doing this vary, but precautionary measures including talking therapies and calming practices like meditation can make a huge difference. Equally, there’s evidence that healthcare workers with secure home support bubbles manage better mentally overall than those who attempt to deal with stresses on their own. 

A final word

There’s no denying that coronavirus has put a spanner in the medical education works, with students facing a very different working landscape than they expected. Still, there’s no need to put your healthcare career on the back burner if you don’t want to. Simply follow these tips, and apply them to every step you take to enjoy your dream job in no time. 

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