Working in healthcare requires more than good grades and degrees. Although we spend most of our time acquiring or polishing our hard skills in school, soft skills are actually what make or break the patient experience day-to-day. These skills are typically what we call “personality skills” and have to do with the way we relate to those we serve and work with. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 soft skills needed to make you a successful healthcare professional.
Communication is one of the most vital and foundational soft skills. As a provider, your ability to deliver effective care will rely on how you comprehend what patients and caretakers are communicating to you. Are you an active listener? Do you speak any foreign languages? Your communication skills also extend to how well you can influence and negotiate. Practice being an active listener and speaking with clarity.
Working in healthcare is a team effort. Whether you’re working with your colleagues to problem solve, reporting to senior management about performance improvement, or dealing with patients and caretakers, understanding how to work in any team will be critical to your professional success. The goal is to be a good facilitator that helps guide the team to a common goal. You may have already experienced this in previous teams, group projects, or team building activities. Think about what your role tends to be in a group and ways you can empower your team members in the future.
If you joined healthcare because you wanted to help people (which, let’s be real, is most of us), chances are you’re an empathetic person. Empathy is a necessary component of being motivated in our field. Being able to be diplomatic and diffuse difficult situations is a part of our daily lives. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions, whether it’s a life-altering procedure or making an important diagnosis, being able to manage what is often the hardest periods in some people’s lives is critical.
Healthcare is a 24/7 job and can often feel like you’re under a great deal of pressure. Having a clear mind is necessary to make quick, often crucial decisions. This means that having a stress management plan is important to not only your life but those you serve. Techniques like meditation and mindfulness can help to curb the side effects of burn out and have you starting your day present and focused.
Strong work ethic
We all know that health never takes a day off, even for holidays and special occasions. You can often find healthcare professionals going “above and beyond” the call of duty to ensure proper care for others. A strong work ethic will help you to focus on achieving the goals at hand and making the most of any situation. No two days in healthcare are the same so having a strong work ethic will help prepare you for whatever is thrown at you.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail is important to any job but absolutely critical in healthcare. There’s little room for error when a small detail can mean the difference between life and death. Whether it’s measuring out the correct dosage of medication, ensuring you’re following proper safety measures, or simply writing the correct patient information down, being attentive to detail is mission-critical in this field. It could even be your ability to notice subtle things like non-verbal cues and body language. Being present and avoiding distractions will help you maintain focus and keep your attention sharp.
If one thing is consistent in healthcare, it’s change. Legislation, requirements, benchmarks, best practices, even scientific evidence is always subject to change. Being the kind of person that can ride the waves of change will help you better navigate the healthcare waters. Try being open to change as opposed to resistant and closed off. Learn to deal with challenges by adjusting your plans or way of working to your changing environment.
Time management isn’t just about getting everything done on time, it’s knowing how to prioritize your tasks, multi-task and wear different hats, and meet your deadlines. How good are you at setting goals and fulfilling them in a reasonable time? Are you the type to manage your free time well? What about if you have conflicting priorities? Think about these types of questions when you’re assessing and improving your time management capabilities.
For most of us, our daily work in healthcare involves dealing with people in some capacity. Your ability to manage these different relationships will dictate how efficiently you can do your job. If you are in a leadership position you will have to exhibit diplomacy and have a good understanding of emotional intelligence. At minimum, practice maintaining a positive attitude with those you interact with.
If you’re a clinician, chances are the work that you do is patient-facing. Being confident in yourself and the care that you’re providing greatly affects the patient experience. When it comes to patient performance in particular, a provider’s confidence is rated as one of the most significant factors. So don’t be shy, you worked as hard as you did to get in this role. Now step up to the plate and own it!
I’m sure as you were reading through this list there were probably some soft skills that stood out to you as things you excelled on and maybe others that need more work. Take the time to be self-aware and see where you may need to brush up your skills. Remember, healthcare is about people at the end of the day. So the better we improve our soft skills, i.e. people skills, the better off we’ll all be at doing our jobs.
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