Health Care Is Not a Nine-to-Five Job
If you work in a field of health care that doesn't involve patient care, you might be able to work a set schedule and possibly avoid working holidays, weekends, or evenings. For those involved in direct care, you're going to have to adjust to a lifestyle that doesn't revolve around banker's hours.
Health care is needed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Health care professionals are expected to meet the needs of patients. Whether you are the practitioner on call or the home health aide, you may be expected to deal with the needs of a patient in the middle of the night, on Christmas morning, or even on your birthday. You might be the pharmacist in the all-night pharmacy who gets the call at 3 A.M. to fill a prescription for a two-year-old with the croup.
Think about your own experiences in visiting your physician, having x-rays or blood drawn, or making a trip to urgent care or the ER. You usually have to wait, and sometimes way beyond your appointment time, or for several hours in an emergency room.
On the professional side of this scenario, everyone involved in the health care setting, from the receptionist to the practitioner, is going to be affected by the delays and the unexpected. In hospital settings, it's not uncommon for the unexpected to happen just before the end of your shift!
Health care is not predictable. When you finally get to see the physician, you want her full attention and to be her first priority. In order to give 100 percent to all patients, she may have to spend a little more time with one person, and that sets everything back for the day. Sometimes an emergency happens and everything has to get rescheduled.
Unlike your friends who work in other industries, you won't find yourself taking two-hour power lunches. You most likely won't have a job where you can leave for a while and come back and finish up your day's work by staying late. In some cases you might be the only ranking professional (such as the R.N.) available, and find that you cannot even take a bathroom break until another R.N. comes to relieve you.
It's important to understand the extent of your responsibilities as a health care worker before you enter the profession. If you want to be a doctor just for the money and the prestige, you'll quickly find yourself overwhelmed and very unhappy with the schedule you're required to keep and resenting the sacrifices you have to make. This is one of the biggest reasons many health care workers leave the profession in their first three years. And it's one of the reasons for the tremendous shortages in some health care fields such as nursing.
You will make a difference in someone's life every day, and this will be the most rewarding career you can find, but not without some sacrifices in your personal life. Flexibility and spontaneity are very important characteristics for these careers. If you cannot cope with life unless you have a very set schedule, health care may not be the appropriate field for you.
Another reason for some of these shortages stems from the fact that years ago, women who wanted to work outside the home had few choices. They became secretaries, teachers, or nurses. Today there are many career choices for women in the health care field alone. Many women as well as men look for positions that offer them the best opportunities for flexible schedules.
Future challenges for those seeking to solve staffing shortages involve solving some of the issues of flexibility. Creative solutions are needed. Those employers who cannot learn to think outside the box and insist on following the same rules and schedules that they always have will find themselves dealing with continued staffing shortages and retention issues.