Before I started working in healthcare I’d always felt very strongly that I never wanted to work in healthcare.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’ve always had a great amount of respect for the field and those who work in it. My mother is an R.N., my sister is an R.N., and my grandmother was a nurse during World War II. But I just wasn’t born with the nursing gene, and in my mind that meant I wouldn’t enjoy working in the medical field or be a beneficial addition to it. Of course, I know now how wrong I was. There’s so much more to healthcare than nursing (although nursing is certainly the backbone of the field) but I never really considered all the positions the medical field had to offer besides those relating to direct patient care. That is until last spring when I applied for the clinical administrative assistant position that I still gratefully hold today.
Considering I did spend four years and plenty of money to earn a bachelor’s degree in writing, I suppose it’s not all that surprising I never intended to work in healthcare. The medical field is as scientific as it gets, and as you may have guessed, science was never my strongest subject. I preferred to get lost in the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien and the Bronte sisters, and that was only when I wasn’t writing stories of my own. So, I grew up thinking my creative aspirations and overall sensitivity would make me extremely unhappy in the fast-paced, mega-tough work environment that healthcare sometimes creates. I also mistakenly believed that taking a job in healthcare would keep me from finding success as a writer.
Fortunately, I’ve come to realize over the past year that being a successful creative and being an excellent healthcare professional are not mutually exclusive goals. Rather, all the qualities that make me a successful creative are the same qualities that make me a successful healthcare professional. In fact, I truly believe creative people have the potential to become excellent healthcare professionals, and here are eight reasons why:
1. We think differently than most people so we offer a unique perspective.
It goes without saying that creatives simply think differently than non-creatives. Sometimes this makes us look like super big weirdos, but often it allows us to solve problems that others are unable to. Creatives types tend to think objectively which means we try to see everyone’s side of things. Additionally, we tend to value diversity because when you’re creating something with the hopes of reaching a large audience, valuing diversity is kind of a no-brainer. It’s also a crucial skill to have when you’re working in healthcare because healthcare touches everyone. So, if you value hires who value diversity, think twice before writing off creative applicants.
2. We’re excellent at multitasking.
Creative types are naturally great at multitasking because most creative work is multitasking. When musicians play their instruments they’re also reading music. When actors perform lines they have to rely on their memory and their delivery simultaneously. And I don’t know a single freelance writer who doesn’t juggle household chores, professional email threads, and online research while they’re drafting a post. Plus, most of us have grown so accustomed to budgeting our time just to be able to spend some of it being creative that becoming multitasking, time-managing pros is simply mandatory for us. So the next time you’re evaluating a potential creative hire, expect to be blown away by how well they can multitask. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
3. We enjoy listening to our patients more than most.
Creatives are natural storytellers, whether we tell our stories through art, music, or the written word. So it makes sense that we enjoy listening to our patient’s stories more than some of our fellow healthcare workers do. Talking to patients is honestly my favorite part of the job, and they need to be heard. I love hearing about their lives, even if it’s not always the most uplifting of conversations. Plus, it makes me feel good. I may not be able to administer their meds or write their orders, but I’m happy I get to help them out by being their sounding board, and I’m not alone in this feeling. Every creative healthcare professional I know loves their patients, even when they’re being non-compliant. Our stereotypical sensitivity allows us to work compassionately so our patients never have to doubt that their health and happiness is important to us too. Now, doesn’t that sound like someone you’d like to hire?
4. Healthcare is our day job, so we don’t take ourselves too seriously at work.
This doesn’t mean we don’t take our work seriously. Trust me, I make a point to be the best clinical administrative assistant west of the Mississippi. However, I am also very aware of the fact that the bulk of my education, work experience, and future career goals lean more toward the creative and less towards medicine. This means I don’t come into work feeling the need to pretend I’m some kind of healthcare rock star. Creatives are not afraid of looking inexperienced or uninformed because we start out as both. I have no doubt that any creative candidate you assess will wow you with their openness to learning, which we all know is an essential trait for anyone working in the ever-changing world that is healthcare. We’re so open to learning, in fact, that we may even annoy the less patient of healthcare professionals. We have absolutely no problem asking lots of questions and being extremely honest about what information we need from our more experienced co-workers in order to do our jobs efficiently.
5. Our lack of healthcare experience makes us work extra hard to prove we belong.
As I mentioned above, I came into the healthcare field with absolutely no prior experience. I couldn’t have told you the difference between Medicaid and Medicare, and all the abbreviations we use? Forget about it. But I honestly think my lack of knowledge and experience only pushed me to work harder, and it still does. I could not be more grateful to the clinical manager who took a chance on this timid, insecure English major whose resume mainly boasted entry-level retail positions. I knew I’d lucked out when she hired me in spite of my inexperience, and I’ve worked extra hard for my clinic because of that.
6. Our lack of experience also makes us easier to train in many ways.
I’m sure the thought of building an employee from the ground up can seem like a daunting task, and I get that. Its true, creative types usually know little (if anything) about what it means to work in healthcare. But this also means we don’t have to unlearn anything. We’re not set in our ways, and we’re not going to argue with you about how your particular company/hospital/clinic does things. We’re literally blank canvases, which kind of makes us the ideal trainees.
7. We have a healthy, creative outlet to deal with the stress of the field.
There’s no denying it. As rewarding as working in healthcare can be, it’s also a renownedly stressful field. Fortunately, most creatives have been using art, music, and writing to de-stress and decompress since they were kids. So, at least you know when you hire a creative type that they’ve already got their coping mechanisms on lockdown. Plus, creative activity such as writing has been shown to increase immunity, and there’s not much that healthcare professionals could use more than increased immunity.
8. Fear of becoming “starving artists” makes us especially grateful for our jobs.
The jokes about artists, writers, actors, etc. going hungry really aren’t all that far off. Before I landed my day job in healthcare I’d spent a year and a half trying to find work that paid above minimum wage and offered more than 20 hours a week. And I had two college degrees. Of course, that also has to do with my location, but the bottom line is this: the term “starving artist” exists for a reason. Needless to say, I could not be more grateful for my job in healthcare. It has made such a positive impact on my life and my finances, and my gratitude definitely shows through my work.
I know one year in healthcare doesn’t make me an expert on who will or won’t make the ideal healthcare hire. But I do know what working in healthcare is like for a creative person, and I also know that being creative has only benefited me as I’ve worked in this field. Creatives naturally posses so many of the necessary behavioral competencies that any promising, potential healthcare hire should. We’re super compassionate, we love to learn, and we’re crazy good multi-taskers who thrive on diversity. So, the next time you come across a resume that reads “Bachelor of Arts” don’t assume they won’t make an excellent, committed hire. Give them a shot, because they just might end up having “all the right stuff” to become one of the best healthcare hires you ever recruit.
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