Being an HCP is more than meeting the initial education requirements. A degree does not make you a good nurse, nursing assistant, or healthcare professional. On top of all the technical skills, HCPs are expected to provide emotional care for patients going through tough times in their lives.
It takes a special kind of temperament to thrive in a space as high pressure and demanding as healthcare. Today, we will go over key nursing qualities that you cannot quantify. They are both intangible, yet screamingly obvious and essential for an HCP’s success.
This should go without saying, but healthcare is a uniquely demanding profession. HCPs of all levels will be expected to carry out physically and mentally challenging tasks, over long work shifts. You are likely to spend a majority of your shift on your feet, regardless of which department you work in. Do not be surprised if you are asked to carry sensitive equipment or patients, as well. To succeed in this industry, a strong work ethic is a must. You must be prepared to give all your effort, regardless of the challenges that you face. Even when you are drained and exhausted after a shift, you need to muster the energy to push through.
Empathy and Compassion
Patients admitted to hospitals experience pain that most people cannot relate to. Chances are they are dealing with serious personal issues, loss, or stress and anxiety over their current condition. Even if that is not the case, a hospital stay can be uniquely isolating. Patients are immobilized and often separated from their family members for long stretches of time. On top of the technical and physical labor, HCPs have to provide emotional support for the patients they look after. This requires a great deal of both empathy and compassion.
You may be asking yourself: “what is the difference?” When you sympathize with someone, you understand what they are feeling on a rational level. You know where it comes from, even if you do not feel it yourself. When you empathize with someone, you feel their emotions with them. Whether you sympathize or empathize will usually depend on your own life experiences. After all, it is easier to empathize with a cancer patient if you have undergone similar struggles. Regardless, both qualities are must-haves for any HCP. When you understand what they are feeling on some level, it is easier to provide effective emotional care.
Education is a key component of successful healthcare. HCPs will not be with their patients 24/7 so they need to teach them how to take care of themselves. For example: if a patient is able to take medications for themselves, HCPs must instruct them on the recommended dosages and times they should take them on. If a patient is discharged, you will have to teach them and their families about what to do and what not to do, to ensure that their recovery process is unhindered.
To properly educate, communication is key. An HCP must learn how to break down complex medical terminology in such a way that anyone can understand. Healthcare professionals also have to effectively communicate with a patient and their family members, at every stage of the healing process. They need to explain the condition they are in, and the pros and cons of each treatment alternative. This should all be done while being sensitive to their cultural background or emotional state.
You cannot expect every shift to go as planned. Sometimes, patients will undergo sudden changes in condition that forces you to rethink the care plan. Other times, you will find yourself working on a time limit to save someone’s life. If a patient is undergoing a mental breakdown or episode, the HCP may be forced to evacuate the premises or diffuse the situation themselves. A healthcare professional must have the composure and wherewithal to gather themselves and respond appropriately, in these situations. This is especially important if you want to work in the Intensive Care Unit or Emergency Department. High pressure situations are the norm, and you must be ready for that.
Eye for Detail
At every HCP level, you are usually deferring to someone. Nursing assistants answer to their supervising nurses, while registered nurses commonly answer to the facility’s doctors and physicians, when it comes to patient treatment and medication. Even nurse practitioners cannot act autonomously, unless they have physician approval. An attention to detail is necessary, if you want to follow their instructions correctly. Healthcare is so precise with medication, that slight deviations in dosage or time of administration can have severe consequences.
This attentiveness is also important, when the HCP is watching over their patient. A patient’s condition and any changes need to be added to a medical report, with appropriate detail. From there, the nursing team can determine whether or not a change in treatment plan is necessary.
A Critical Mind
Solutions in healthcare are not linear. You cannot memorize a textbook, and expect all similar problems to share the same solution. Critical thinking allows you to see the information presented in front of you, consider context, and find a solution that is not apparent yet is still grounded in reasoning and rationality. Relating to the composure point, you must be capable of doing this within a time constraint, and under high pressure.
A critical mind is also willing to learn constantly. Healthcare is rapidly evolving every day, so HCPs must stay updated with the latest developments and best practices. This is why most states have a continuing education program. Healthcare professionals need to be willing to learn constantly, if they want to have a sustained career.