If you're a healthcare professional who hasn't practiced for a while, you may be intimidated by a job search. Don't be. It's common for health professionals to reenter the healthcare job market after spending time away raising a family or working in an unrelated industry. You can make a smooth transition back into the healthcare workforce if you are willing to update your skills and adjust your attitude, healthcare career experts say. Take these tips from the experts if you're trying to get back in the saddle again.
Keep an Open Mind
Don't assume you should return to the same type of work you did before. In today's rapidly changing healthcare industry, your old position may not be right for you anymore. For example, hospital professionals today face a heavier workload and more acutely ill patients than in the past, says Laura Mahlmeister, PhD, RN, a San Francisco healthcare consultant who still works one day a week as a labor and delivery nurse. You may decide that working in a new capacity in home health, a nursing home or a clinic is more your speed.
Research Your Options
You'll have to conduct research to redefine your career goal, says Sandy Anderson, PhD, MBA, author of Women in Career & Life Transitions. She recommends browsing at the library and on the Internet. You should network through professional nursing organizations, professional pharmacy groups or other relevant professional healthcare associations; set up informational interviews; and attend healthcare job fairs, which are held in large cities around the country. Once you've narrowed your scope of interest, you may want to volunteer in your desired work setting or shadow someone who is working in your ideal job to confirm your ambitions, Anderson says.
Talk the Talk
As you're researching career options, you should also investigate health-industry trends. Take note of the latest buzzwords and acronyms that may be bounced around during interviews. Books, professional magazines and journals, and online forums are all great resources for gleaning this type of information, Anderson says. On a company-by-company basis, you should make yourself aware of a prospective employer's history and goals.
Refresh Your Skills
The longer you've been away from healthcare, the more you'll need to brush up on your clinical skills. At a minimum, you must fulfill the necessary educational requirements for professional re-licensure in your state. Because these requirements can often be met through lectures rather than hands-on experiences, you may also want to take a clinical refresher course. For example, if your assessment or IV skills have gotten rusty, take a class to get back in the groove. It will look good on your resume and prepare you to work with new technologies. If you're pursuing a new direction in healthcare altogether, you may have to attain a new degree or certification.
Make Friends with Computers
Computer literacy is a prerequisite in most health professions now, Mahlmeister says. At the very least, you should know the basic functions of a computer and how to use a keyboard.
Create a Dazzling Resume
Emphasize your skills, accomplishments and qualifications on your healthcare resume rather than simply listing your work experiences in chronological order. If you've held positions outside the healthcare industry, you've probably gained marketable skills -- whether in customer service, management, communications or other areas -- that are relevant and transferable to healthcare.
Even if you haven't taken home a paycheck for a while, your experience managing a household, directing a car pool, serving as treasurer of the homeowners' association or volunteering your time in the community are important, Anderson says. "Just because you've been out of the paid workforce for a while doesn't mean you don't have an entire realm of experience that employers will look at," she says.
Accentuate the Positive
Focus on these varied accomplishments and experiences during healthcare job interviews. "These days employers are looking at your skills and strengths, not where you worked," she says. "They're looking for people who can adapt easily and remain flexible."
Learn more about healthcare careers.