Healthcare Career Resources is a blog for those who work in the healthcare industry. We cover topics ranging from current events to medical humor as well as more career focused topics such as job search and interview tips. We also publish articles written for healthcare human resources and physician recruiters.
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Death is an unavoidable. Whether you experience it at work or at home, you’ll need to be ready for how you’ll react. Practice. Memorize. Prepare yourself. When the time comes, you’ll be a great comfort to the family of your patient and know that you’ve done the right...
As healthcare workers, we deal with death on a regular basis. Whether it’s an unexpected tragedy, or the end to a long road of suffering, we are there as the family endures their loss. While we may understand the medical facts behind the death, it’s often the comforting words for the family that elude us. What should we say? How should we say it? Should we hug them? What do we do? Unsure of what to do or say, conversational narcissism often steps in and leaves us feeling comforted. But, does it comfort the family?
Simply put, conversational narcissism is the tendency to steer a conversation to your chosen topic, focus on yourself, and/or do most of the talking. While we all know people who are obvious and over the top in their attempts to do this, most don’t ever realize it’s happening. Have you ever comforted someone who lost a loved one by stating, “I understand; when I lost my mother…?” By wanting to share your experience, in what felt like a moment of bonding, you inadvertently redirected the attention onto yourself. Certainly it was not out of malice, but it was not the right time. Even if you don’t talk about yourself, feeling the need to take over the conversation and avoid the awkward silence by filling the space with insignificant information takes you down the same road. So, what DO you say?
First and foremost, get comfortable with silence. This is probably the most difficult thing for anyone to get past. Sitting with family members as they furiously process their thoughts and feelings in silence can feel like absolute torture! As you sit and wait, you become anxious. You’re thinking about all the things you should be doing. It feels like you’re trapped in a perpetual moment of nothingness. However, it’s the most supportive thing you can do! The person you’re sitting with probably feels like everything is happening too fast. It’s up to you to help him/her slow things down. This is NOT the time to talk incessantly or share your own experiences. Avoid the tendency to fill this space or steer the focus.
Tip: If you struggle with this, practice with colleagues. Choose a location and sit in silence together. Don’t read a book or watch TV. Simply sit in silence for increasing intervals of time until you’re comfortable with the act.
Once you’ve mastered the art of sitting in silence, you’ll still need to find the right words to say. Sure, it’s easy to explain the medical rationale for what has happened. Explaining what happens next is a cinch too! When all of the easy stuff is out of the way, you’ll need to have a comforting word handy. There are tons of options, but the most important thing is to consider whom you’re talking to. Do you know them well? Do they share a belief system with you? What kind of death did their loved one succumb to? Consider the answers to these questions before choosing your words. Here are some example phrases…
It’s important to consider the things that you should NOT say as well. While these words are spoken with the best of intentions, they steer the focus away from the person who has suffered a loss or even attempt to downplay what has happened. Consider them. Have you ever used them? Put them in your mind and purpose to leave them out of your repertoire.
Once you’ve mastered sitting in silence with the family and finding the right words say, the next thing you need to prepare for is physical touch. If you’re not a person who enjoys a good hug, it’s ok to forgo any physical touch at all. But, if you’re a “touchy feely” type and you want to comfort family with a pat on the shoulder or a hug, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, hugging without asking is a form of passive narcissism where hugging others leaves you feeling as if you’ve helped and comforted. You may walk away feeling like you’ve done a great service, but the family may not agree. Secondly, always ask before giving a hug. While this person may have hugged you in the past, not all people enjoy a hug when they’re in distress. Offering a hug for comfort is wonderful, but be ok with hearing, “no.” Thirdly, a touch on the shoulder is still touch. While many of us see it as unassuming, there is an equal amount of people who feel that it is too much. Always, always ask first.
Death is an unavoidable. Whether you experience it at work or at home, you’ll need to be ready for how you’ll react. Practice. Memorize. Prepare yourself. When the time comes, you’ll be a great comfort to the family of your patient and know that you’ve done the right thing.
Deciding upon a specialty can be one of the most difficult tasks faced by medical students during their training. As if the stress of studying for cardiology was not enough, now you’re being asked to select rotations and to make some of your elective choices based on what your chosen specialty will be. For many students, this added layer of anxiety comes without a clear idea of how to choose a specialty. While we have guides that tell us how to examine patients, how to take tests, even how to...
Deciding upon a specialty can be one of the most difficult tasks faced by medical students during their training. As if the stress of studying for cardiology was not enough, now you’re being asked to select rotations and to make some of your elective choices based on what your chosen specialty will be. For many students, this added layer of anxiety comes without a clear idea of how to choose a specialty. While we have guides that tell us how to examine patients, how to take tests, even how to grade a patient’s stool, the medical school curriculum doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of a systematic approach to selecting the specialty you will dedicate your life to. What follows are some simple first steps to aid you in this process, and to hopefully help you find your dream specialty.
Before we discuss a systematic approach to selecting a specialty, we will address the lucky portion of medical students who came to medical school with a specific specialty in mind. If you are beginning this journey with an already established goal, congratulations! Your primary goal should be to identify and connect with mentors in your chosen specialty. Regularly meeting with mentors who are vested in your success will help you develop a support network that is vital to excelling in medical school and eventually in the residency application process. Not only will these mentors be able to tell you about the ins and outs of patient care in their specialty, open discussions with them will often highlight some of the potential negatives you may not have considered as a pre-med. In addition to these benefits, building meaningful relationships with mentors at your medical school will also help you in the residency application process, as these mentors know the steps needed to match into the specialty, and they may be able to provide networking opportunities with residency program directors.
The first step is to take a deep breath. This is a major decision, and uncertainty is a normal part of the process. Next, try to think back to what drew you to apply to medical school in the first place. Develop an idea in your mind about what kind of doctor you imagined you would be – were you always doing the diagnosing? Was immediate treatment more important to you? Did you value the patient-doctor relationship? – Having an idea of what attributes of medicine are most important to you will help you evaluate specialties and how well they might fit your personal and career goals.
This article may be the only place that you read this piece of advice because of the machismo associated with much of medicine, and the idea that suffering or living a difficult lifestyle somehow makes us better people or physicians. As a medical student, one of my mentors counseled me to think about the lifestyle I wanted and choose a specialty based on that. His point was that many facets of medicine are similar across specialties; however, no one would assert that an internist and a neurosurgeon live the same lifestyle with respect to training length, intensity, call demands, etc. Considering the potential impact that a specialty may have on your life is vitally important. If you LOVE neuroscience but can’t stand to make decisions and don’t do well under stress, neurosurgery is likely not the ideal choice for you. Not every specialty is created equally, and an honest appraisal of the demands that will be placed on you is vital to understanding the lifestyle you will have as an attending.
To put it simply, consider the kind of life that you want to live, and make sure that the specialty you are considering not only allows you to live that life but also enhances or adds to the life you envision for yourself.
Now that you’ve considered the intellectual and personal attributes you’re looking for in a medical specialty, the key is to gain a broad exposure to give you the most information to make your decision. Clinical rotations and shadowing are two key pathways to obtain this exposure during medical school.
Rotations are part of your medical school curriculum for a reason. To get the most out of them, find some aspect of every rotation that speaks to you or that you find interesting. I can honestly say that as a future neurosurgeon, I enjoyed every rotation from family medicine to psychiatry. Each will teach your valuable skills, expose you to different ways to treat patients, and broaden your medical knowledge. By approaching each rotation with a sense of curiosity and openness, you are learning more about that specialty and the typical lifestyle for that type of physician. This information is invaluable for helping to narrow your potential specialty choices.
This may not seem obvious, as most medical students hoped their shadowing would end with their admission to medical school, but shadowing is a fundamental way to explore different specialties during medical school. Shadowing as a medical student, with a very different perspective from the pre-med, allows you to really look at what the specialty does, not what do you think it does. This direct, hands-on approach to evaluating a chosen specialty provides invaluable information for your decision-making, and it also allows you access to the ‘intangibles.’ You will find that different specialties tend to attract different personality types, and sometimes just spending time with these different doctors will be all you need. Sometimes it isn’t list-making, intellectual alignment, or perceived lifestyle that guides you to pursue a specific specialty. Sometimes all it takes is rounding with a care team at midnight as a medical student, realizing that there is no other place you would rather be, and thinking to yourself “These are my people.”
Regardless of whether you came to medical school with a specialty in mind or you have no clue, the first step of the process is to really consider what you want out of your career and how you want to practice medicine. Considering how a potential specialty might impact your overall lifestyle is another consideration, and then gaining as much first-hand experience as possible to assist in the decision-making process is the crucial third step. Eventually, you will find ‘your people’ in medicine, and that sense of belonging, even in the difficult times, will confirm you’ve made the right decision!
Starting your first nursing job may seem overwhelming. You have finished one of the most difficult undergraduate educations that exists, but starting to put what you have learned into practice presents a whole new set of difficulties. Thankfully, there are several things that you can do that will help you to not only survive, but to thrive in your first year as a new...
Starting your first nursing job may seem overwhelming. You have finished one of the most difficult undergraduate educations that exists, but starting to put what you have learned into practice presents a whole new set of difficulties. Thankfully, there are several things that you can do that will help you to not only survive, but to thrive in your first year as a new nurse.
Experience in nursing is important and provides a nurse with a much better understanding of how to recognize and respond to certain situations than studying those situations in a textbook or in class. As a new nurse, you will not have that experience and will not be as confident or knowledgeable on how to respond to some of the situations that you may encounter in clinical practice. Finding a mentor that you can rely on and trust to provide advice or feedback can be invaluable for a new nurse. Wait at least a couple months before trying to find a mentor, as it will take you some time to learn which of your co-workers you should be trying to emulate and which may have bad habits that you would like to avoid. Be sure that the person you would like as your mentor has at least five years of clinical experience, preferably more. Approach him/her and ask if he could give you advice or feedback from time to time and if it would be okay for you to ask questions about her experiences as a nurse. Most nurses will be happy to help you develop professionally.
As a new nurse, there will be a lot of things that you don’t know, and many things that you do. It will be crucial to find a balance of not being over-confident in your new education, while still depending upon the knowledge and skills that your education has prepared you for. Over-confidence can be a problem for some new graduates, especially for those who performed better in school. Being over-confident can lead you to inadvertently fail to follow important protocols or miss important information that would have been revealed with a more thorough double check. Under-confidence, on the other hand, can lead to your providing inefficient care or failing to act as quickly as may be necessary during an emergency. While double, or even triple checking may be important, don’t let your lack of confidence paralyze your work. If in doubt, erring on the side of under-confidence is safer, because you will be less likely to make a potentially dangerous mistake.
As a new nurse there will be many things that you do not know and will need to find out on your own. Figuring out where to find the answers to these questions will be vital to succeeding. Be familiar with the information and resources that your employer has available. If there is a computer drug database or nursing procedure guides, find out where these are located and how to access them quickly. Also be sure that you know where to access your employer’s policies and procedures. As a new nurse, your manager may point you to certain nurses to use as resource people for questions. Be sure that you ask questions and always use your resources whenever you are not certain about something or when you would rather make sure of something that you think you already know.
Your manager and the charge nurses where you work will quickly come to recognize and know areas in which you have strengths and areas that need development. Your colleagues will also develop an opinion about you as a nurse and what your strengths and weakness are. Those around you, however, may not openly share their opinions of how you are doing and areas in which you could improve. You will have to ask for feedback to learn how you are doing and in what areas you could use improvement. Be specific when you ask questions. Asking a general question, like “How do you think I am doing here?” will not provide you with much useful information. Asking “What are the top three areas you think I could improve in?”, however, will provide you with more useful feedback that you can use to improve your nursing skills.
As you start your first nursing job, there will be many things to learn, classes to take, certifications to obtain, and an orientation process to get through. Through the busy process of learning and adapting to managing a patient assignment, it is vital that you remember what made you become a nurse in the first place. Nurses have a unique ability to comfort, heal, and make a difference in the lives of those they serve. As you adjust to all the nuances of the job, never forget about your patients and your ability to make a lasting impact in their lives through the art and science of nursing. If you want to succeed as a nurse, always remember and stay true to the reason that you became a nurse.
From first contact to contract negotiation, the quality of the experience as a whole needs to communicate professionalism and genuine interest. It is clear to job seekers which employers invest in the recruitment process and which do not. A candidate can also tell which experiences are mass produced with little forethought and which are tailored specifically to the situation at...
One of the many advantages to a career in health care is the perpetual demand. No matter where you live, now or in the future, health care providers enjoy excellent job security. With the physician shortage expected to top 120,000 by the year 2030, clinicians will often have many employment opportunities to choose from and as the expression goes, “first impressions are everything”!
Employers and job seekers connect in a variety of ways–through networking, job boards, web searches, cold calls, etc. Each party wants to present their best selves in hopes of developing a long-term relationship, but when working with multiple potential hires, it’s easy to forget that the interview experience can factor just as importantly as the offer itself.
From first contact to contract negotiation, the quality of the experience as a whole needs to communicate professionalism and genuine interest. It is clear to job seekers which employers invest in the recruitment process and which do not. A candidate can also tell which experiences are mass produced with little forethought and which are tailored specifically to the situation at hand.
Here are some of my most memorable interviews:
Each of these experiences have a few things in common–first, communication was plentiful. In each case, multiple emails, phone calls, and even texts were exchanged, and there was never a question about what the other was thinking or planning. Second, all of them included either actual facetime or video calls. It was important to meet “eye to eye.” Body language says a lot. Third, while never inappropriately casual, all of these experiences were authentic. I felt that each one of them were genuinely interested not only in my clinical skills but also in me as a person. And finally, each potential employer apparently viewed the interview experience as an investment, and as with any good investment, a small sacrifice can pay big dividends for years to come.
Now, let me tell you about a few other interviews that I’ll never forget, but for entirely different reasons:
What do the last three experiences have in common? It boils down to two things: A cringe-worthy first contact and no sign of real interest or investment in the process. The three latter examples each had many other red flags along the way. I left each one of those experiences a bit surprised and confused but also relieved that I had dodged what could have been a disastrous situation. A job interview is not unlike a first date, you generally want to make the best possible impression… And for heaven’s sake, don’t talk about your ex!
Intern year is a year of mountains and valleys, full of failure, forgetting, and dreariness followed quickly by success, learning, and elation. Wallow in its instability and allow it to let you grow into a wonderfully dynamic physician. I promise you’ll get to the other side glad you tackled the...
Intern year is truly a rollercoaster ride. Each July brings in a new wave of freshly minted doctors. Relief from being finished with the rat race of medical school coupled with trepidation of residency and responsibilities can lead to a jumble of emotions for new interns. With having recently completed my own intern year and having made it out alive (some might even say happy and healthy), allow my reflections to guide and comfort you throughout the year. Buckle up!
Intern year starts roughly for just about everyone. I started out as a solo intern on a complicated inpatient oncology ward. With no senior resident to turn to, I relied heavily on the nurses’ expertise for these highly specialized patients. I frequently would discuss cases with nurses fueled by questions such as “How is this normally handled?” or “Does this plan sound reasonable?” Additionally, I learned early on to get to the heart of questions brought forth from nurses. Questions such as, “Why is this issue being brought up?” and “Is the patient concerned or are you?” and even “Is this an FYI or a request for help?” helped sift through different communication styles among staff. These distinctions allow young interns to learn from clinical experiences of seasoned nurses. It instilled a sense of teamwork between me and the other medical professionals. They became my lifeline. Nurses truly are the vital signs of a hospital floor and should be used for the wealth of knowledge and aid that they can offer.
Medicine is unique in that the progression in career is step-wise and fairly simultaneous amongst physicians as they transition from medical school to residency to attending level. The PGY-1 year allows interns to step back from a go-go-go and goal-orientation mentality that permeates medical school. Likely, this is simply because it is hard to maintain this mentality when all efforts of interns are centered around trying not to drown. With this new mentality, lean into your peers. You’re in a profession which occurs in waves, so everyone feels just as nervous and unprepared as you. Turn to your colleagues. Intern year can be difficult emotionally; don’t silently drown. It is brave to ask for help when you need it. Allow your peers to lend a helping hand.
Around the halfway mark of your first year, you may feel like you’ve hit your stride. You have managed most major conditions resulting in hospitalization. It’s easy to develop a confidence, which is a well-deserved respite from the first few months of struggle. Interns surface and think, “Hey, I’ve got this! I can do this and remember to breathe!” This is a wonderful sense of accomplishment—protect yourself from this turning into arrogance. While it is important to develop your own style of management and sense of ownership and confidence in yourself, don’t let this prevent you from listening to your seniors and attending. Continue to learn from those who are more experienced than you.
Long hours on the wards hunched in front of a computer and responding to the ever-present beeping pager can wear down even the most positive person. Interns are lucky in that with everything still being relatively fresh and new, hopefully any sense of jadedness has yet to settle in. Use this to your benefit. Be the fresh pair of eyes on the patient who has been admitted eight times in the past year. Be the fresh set of ears for a chronic complaint from patients. This fresh perspective can help lend fresh solutions. For personal burnout prevention, I do recommend all of the stereotypical tips (i.e. eat healthy, exercise, sleep). But at the hospital, days get long. My best protection against burnout was maintaining curiosity. Pick one new thing about each patient encounter to learn from (and if you’re really good, write it down). For example, this might be an odd comorbidity that isn’t commonly seen in patients with heart failure. Read a brief article about it. Maybe it’s a drug you rarely see on a med rec–look at its side effects. Maybe the family has wacky interpersonal dynamics and you get some interesting human behavior insight. As cheesy and cliché as it is, every moment truly can be a learning experience if you let it. Remain curious.
Intern year is a year of mountains and valleys, full of failure, forgetting, and dreariness followed quickly by success, learning, and elation. Wallow in its instability and allow it to let you grow into a wonderfully dynamic physician. I promise you’ll get to the other side glad you tackled the ride.
A hospital or clinic saves time and money when it brings back someone who understands their culture, policies, and procedures, but not every situation lends itself to "boomerang." This article with help you evaluate when to pursue (and when to avoid) reaching out to a former employer for new...
Are You Ready to “Boomerang”?
You resigned from your employer. Think you can never return? Enough individuals go back to past employers that HR professionals invented a term for it, the boomerang employee. One study commissioned by WorkplaceTrends.com and Kronos Incorporated found:
Did you leave on good terms? Did you provide a reasonable notice? Was your performance exceptional? If so, a past employer is much more likely to consider you for a new position.
A hospital or clinic saves time and money when it brings back someone who understands their culture, policies, and procedures. Not every situation lends itself to “boomerang.” You need to know when to pursue (and when to avoid) reaching out to a former employer for new opportunities.
There are times when family situations force you to change employers. Many people leave jobs because of the stress of dealing with small children or elderly parents. If your family situation is different now, consider returning to a former employer.
Perhaps you left a practice because your spouse got a great offer in another city. It is natural to reconnect with an employer where you had a strong work record. Since you didn’t leave because of money or conflict with a manager, your old employer is likely to strongly consider you for a new opening.
Career path is one of the major reasons people say they return to a past employer. If you left to pursue additional education, feel free to contact an old employer if there is an opening that matches your new career goals. There are many hospitals that would love to fill a Registered Nurse opening with a former Patient Care Tech.
It is harder to boomerang when you left for reasons such as more money, career advancement, or better fit. A Medical Director is likely to wonder how long you’ll stay since another opportunity attracted your eye in the past. Even when you leave for a family reason, your old manager will expect to hear that the work/family conflict is in the past.
It is best to address objections directly in an interview. You should think of a job interview as a sales call where you are marketing your labor services. Good sales people don’t mislead. They tackle objections head on so there is no ‘buyer’s remorse.’
When you meet with a past employer, ask the interviewer if he/she has any questions about your background. Discuss why any past work/family conflicts are no longer relevant. Reiterate at the end of the interview why you’re committed now.
Do not go back to a former employer if you “just need a job.” Hospitals added 58,000 jobs between January 2019-August 2019. The healthcare sector overall experienced strong job growth throughout this decade. There are many great medical jobs at this time.
Even in the medical field, colleagues and managers sometimes have hard feelings when a teammate leaves the organization. If you sense that they just want to fill a position, do not purse returning to the clinic/hospital. A successful hire requires that the employer and employee start with a positive attitude.
Keep in mind, your former employer likely changed while you were gone. They might offer less generous insurance, vacation, or retirement benefits. Some hospitals and clinics have financial problems, too. Make sure you understand the financial implications of going back to an old employer.
You need to have an honest conversation with yourself and your former employer to successfully boomerang. Your knowledge of the organization means you provide immediate value. However, there might be a stigma to being a former employee. Make sure you thoroughly address all concerns.
Managers are now more open than ever to rehiring employees. Before you pursue a medical job with an old employer, make sure you understand the benefits and downsides. You want your second act with an old employer to be intellectually, professionally, and financially fulfilling.
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