Stress is a part of every job – but more so in the healthcare industry. From physicians, nurses, technicians, pharmacists, therapists, surgeons, to medical assistants: they need to quickly think on their feet while staying empathetic with patients from all walks of life. They also need to deal with administrative duties, establishment procedures, and their colleagues. It’s no wonder stress levels are high.  

In a nationwide survey performed by CareerBuilder and MiracleWorkers.com, it was found that 69 percent of healthcare workers feel stressed. Some suffer from burnout due to erratic working schedules. Others might feel stagnant in their current jobs. These and other reasons have led the 25 percent of healthcare workers to think about switching careers in the future.

But if you’ve spent years practicing a certain profession, you might feel your options limited. This is especially true for healthcare staff in their 50’s. However, if you’re willing to make a change in your life, and you have the support of your loved ones, anything is possible. Whether you’re looking to switch careers or find part-time alternatives, here’s how to make the transition smoother.

1. Identify your transferable skills.

Career changes are not created equal. For a few folks, switching jobs mean jumping to a totally new industry (i.e. from healthcare to corporate, or vice versa). For others, it’s merely a hop to a different occupation in the same sector (i.e. from a registered nurse to a head or manager nurse). But before anything else, one of the first things to consider is which skills you can transfer to your new job.

The best thing about working in the healthcare industry is that you will have acquired a lot of practical skills that should come in handy when you change careers. Special abilities such as strong communication, empathy, and patient-care for instance, are all valuable traits to have within the sector. Should you decide to go to another sector, these talents would still be useful, particularly for customer service-oriented fields.

If you’re a registered nurse and you want to become a nurse practitioner, for example, you already have the basics of excelling in your future career. That’s because skills like recording, monitoring, communicating, and working with patients are second nature to you by now. All you need is to get the minimum requirement of achieving a Master’s Degree. 

Key takeaway: First, put your eye on the prize. What job are you planning on entering next? Is it in the same industry? What are the requirements? Second, identify if you already have some of these abilities. Next, work on acquiring the other skills needed before switching careers.

2. Understand the benefits and perks.

One of the main reasons healthcare workers change careers is due to burnout. Sometimes, the demands and lack of work-life balance get to them, physically and emotionally. The toll gets too much to bear that they finally decide to seek other options. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like their jobs, though. In fact, 64 percent of people in healthcare report job satisfaction – which is a higher number compared to the average full-time worker.

Still, it’s not a crime to look for greener pastures. As stress is the number one complaint in this sector, it’s not surprising that most workers who want to change careers opt for jobs with flexible working schedules, shorter commutes, or more vacation time. Before jumping the gun, it’s important to fully take note of what you’ll be getting once you become part of the new system. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where will I be working? Will the commute be easier or harder than before?
  • Who will I be working with? Can I get along with them? What are the problems that could arise?
  • Is there going to be a difference in pay once I switch jobs? How much is the disparity?
  • How much vacation time can I get? Would I still need to work on holidays and weekends? Will that be a problem for me in the future?
  • Are there growth opportunities? How can I improve myself in this position? Are there opportunities to serve my community?

Key takeaway: Create a list of what you want. This makes your goals more concrete and you’ll always have something to refer to. Find out if the job you want has openings for volunteer work or internship. This should help you get your feet wet without going all the way in.

3. Reflect for the long-term.

Even if you’re only in your 20’s or 30’s, it’s not a bad idea to think about the future. As healthcare is a diverse industry, it often takes years to acquire the needed experience in each field. Thus, transferring jobs is not as easy as in other sectors. During your search, take the time to reflect on how long you plan to stay in your potential career.

If you’re in your 50’s however, it’s still NOT too late. Myths such as ‘no one would hire people over 50’ or that ‘it’s difficult to keep up with recent technology’ bears no footing. There are numerous folks over 50 who do well in different sectors, but most especially in healthcare – where experience is crucial. All you need is to tap into relevant resources. For those who are open to change and perhaps, a little excitement, you can opt for teaching or freelance work.

Becoming a locum tenens, for example, is fast-becoming a popular alternative for older healthcare workers who want to remain in their profession. This method gives you plenty of opportunities to be flexible with your schedule while letting you explore various working settings. Don’t worry: there are a lot of in-demand jobs in healthcare, so you’ll definitely find something that suits you.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be afraid to take the necessary time off to contemplate on your decision. Changing careers in health care can be scary – but it’s not impossible. Ask for the support of your friends and loved ones. Network with people whose experience you value. If you’re open to learning new things, you’re bound to come across something that you’re willing to stick to for the long-haul. What matters is that you know that change can be a good thing.