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Love the Multitasking, Hate the Bureaucracy
Wonder what there is to love or hate in the healthcare industry? We can tell you.
First up the Loves:
Health care professionals say that they enjoy seeing people progress to a greater state of well being. "Behind-the-scenes" staff such as laboratory scientists, equipment technicians, and marketing managers comment on the sense of fulfillment that comes from working in an industry aimed at social improvement. As one insider explains, "I'm never going to cure cancer or anything, but the research I'm doing is contributing just a tiny bit to our overall understanding of how cells work."
Health care is composed of individuals who love to handle multiple duties while interacting with an ever-changing population. These people personify the word "busy;" as one physical therapist remarks, "There's never a dull moment." Each new situation asks health care professionals to connect with unfamiliar people over a range of serious issues. Insiders say they value the "quality people" who make up their work environment.
Health care professionals are passionate about analyzing complex situations for creative solutions. As a result, they engage in a constant learning process to gather information that will help them solve new problems. "I'm challenged each day by the volume of information I must continually pack into my brain," says one med school student. Caregivers must understand ongoing developments in the field and be able to think creatively about these changes even under pressure. Insiders say that success depends on finding direction under duress.
People who work in industries ruled by a nine-to-five workweek may find the round-the-clock schedules associated with some divisions in health care overwhelming. Industry professionals, however, say that 24-hour operating schedules facilitate flexible work schedules. The insiders we interviewed say that designing their own time sheets is a definite perk, and for some a determining factor in their career choice. Morning shifts and overnights allow nurses, homes health aides, counselors, and others to maximize the time they spend with their children and to improve their "quality of life."
Now the Hates:
Could doctors' notoriously illegible handwriting be the result of overused writing muscles? The paperwork involved in the health care industry, including bills, insurance reimbursement forms, patient records, and appointment schedules, is "horrendous," echo industry insiders. "If I don't write it, it wasn't said," claims one home health aide. Health care professionals rank paperwork, computerized or not, as their #1 dislike. Many feel they are never "caught up," despite setting out to get it done as accurately and quickly as possible.
Health care professionals dislike the industry-wide push to maximize productivity through tighter scheduling. As time demands increase, doctors find themselves with only minutes to process reports between patient interactions or to interact with colleagues in other departments. "There's no time to be personable," comments one RN, saddled with new administrative responsibilities. Other professionals complain that time constraints limit interdepartmental mentoring, undercut patient-physician relationships, and increase the risk of burn-out.
Entry-level health care workers do a lot of the industry's so-called "scut work" (e.g., cleaning equipment (yes, bedpans, taking down orders, entering data). Many industries' young professionals do their share of administrative work, but the dues-paying duties found in health care can be uniquely unpleasant. Insiders agree, however, that scut work is a vital piece of the learning process.
When you're in the business of treating disease, it's hard to put a price on your services. Health care professionals generally dislike "keeping an eye on the numbers." The spiraling cost of health care has forced many providers to apply business principles to practice of medicine, and the resulting budgetary guidelines often limit which tests doctors perform and which drugs they prescribe. Care providers object to losing control of the decision-making process to administrators, and both groups chafe when insurers won't foot the bill for services rendered.
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