If you want to increase your earnings potential while contributing to your community, a healthcare career may be the answer. As we explored in our healthcare careers blog, surgical technology, medical assisting, radiography, and sonography are high-demand healthcare fields you can enter with either an undergraduate degree or certificate.
To help you decide if these careers are right for you, South College Asheville president Lisa Satterfield, who had an extensive 18-year career in healthcare and healthcare administration before entering education, shared with us the skills these careers require.
1. Attention to Detail
Each of these careers requires close attention to detail and instructions. Medical assistants taking vital signs and patient histories must be precise. Surgical techs must be exact in sterilizing equipment and providing the right materials to surgeons. Radiographers and sonographers follow detailed instructions on what images are needed to diagnose patients. While they work, sonographers must also look for subtle cues indicating potential issues.
2. Communication & Interpersonal Skills
In healthcare, you work within teams. Your ability to create and maintain effective relationships with co-workers, patients, and families will be key to providing quality patient care.
“In imaging, you’re going to interact with the nurses, with laboratory personnel, and with many of the physicians. As a surgical technologist, you’ll be in rooms with surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists. Healthcare is not siloed in any way,” says Dr. Satterfield.
Beyond communicating with colleagues, you’ll need to educate patients and family members of all ages and backgrounds about procedures and results. At times, you’ll interact with severely injured or critically ill patients. You must be sensitive to these patients’ physical and psychological needs, while still convincing them to cooperate with your instructions.
3. Composure & Professionalism
Even when faced with emergency or extremely difficult situations, healthcare team members must remain calm and professional.
“Our instructors spend a lot of time working through various scenarios with our students. We also go into law and ethics, so students understand what’s legal in regards to how they react as situations happen,” explains Dr. Satterfield. “When our students are in clinical settings, they are with certified technologists or medical assistants. They observe how those individuals handle tough situations, which helps prepare the students as well.”
4. Critical Thinking
Healthcare environments and changing patient situations require critical thinking and problem-solving skills. For example, you’ll need to be able to recognize problems or emergencies and notify needed team members. In some scenarios, you can solve minor problems on your own, through actions like adjusting patients or equipment, asking pertinent questions, or conducting further testing or imaging.
5. Physical Stamina & Dexterity
Your physical and motor skills are not to be overlooked for healthcare careers. Medical imaging professionals may move patients and heavy equipment. Surgical technologists are on their feet for long periods during surgeries and must respond quickly to a surgeon’s requests. Medical assistants, especially in clinical roles, too can expect to be up and moving frequently.
6. Discipline-Specific Technical Skills
In the imaging sciences, you’ll need to know how to operate sophisticated equipment to help inform patient diagnosis and treatment. “If you don’t have enough expertise, you can make something look like a tumor when it’s really just a cyst. You can make the heart look enlarged when it’s really not,” says Dr. Satterfield. “Radiologists, gynecologists, cardiologists, all of these different physicians, are dependent on the ability of their x-ray or ultrasound technologist to provide information that truly represents what’s happening in the patient.”
In surgical technology, you need the skills to prepare and stock operating rooms and support complex surgeries. In medical assisting, you’ll need to comprehend the complicated ins and outs of medical billing, clinical procedures, and diagnostic testing.
Depending on the healthcare career you pursue, you’ll also need to be knowledgeable in areas like anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, pharmacology, surgical procedures, and more. “People who are astute in math and the sciences often do well in radiography and diagnostic medical sonography,” Dr. Satterfield notes. “If that’s not your strong suit, we can help you get there, but you have an edge when you come in with really good skills in those areas.”
Taking the Next Steps: How to Build Your Skills & Start Your Career
In our next healthcare career post, we’ll cover the education and certifications required to attain these skills and start your career in radiography, sonography, medical assisting, or surgical technology. Later, we’ll end the series with a review of your options for growing and evolving your career over time.
If you’re interested in talking with South College about our healthcare programs in Asheville or elsewhere, request information online today.