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Tips for Finding a Healthcare Career

Tips for Finding a Healthcare Career

Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer

Although the path to career success is often rocky, if you’re smart, you aren’t doomed to travel it alone. With the guidance of a mentor, it’s easier to stay on course and avoid professional pitfalls. Mentoring relationships are particularly meaningful in healthcare, experts say, where an experienced practitioner can give a personal boost to a new practitioner who is adjusting to the fast-paced, high-stress work of caring for patients.

“A healthcare mentor doesn’t just help you advance your career; he or she also helps better prepare you to serve the public,” says Zardoya Eagles, RN, a labor and delivery nurse in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and author of The Nurses’ Career Guide: Discovering New Horizons in Health Care. “Mentoring takes on more importance in healthcare settings because of the human factor.”

Eagles and experts from several healthcare disciplines offered these tips for new health professionals on how to find and cultivate a relationship with a mentor.

Start Your Search Early

It’s never too early to start seeking out mentors, says Arlene Pietranton, CCC-SLP, PhD, chief staff officer for speech language pathology at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). You should try to connect with and observe healthcare workers who are in your field of interest before you even decide to pursue a profession, Pietranton advises. ASHA offers a program that links students to speech-language pathologists and audiologists in their communities, and some of the relationships are maintained after graduation, she says.

If you can’t make a contact through a professional association, Pietranton recommends using your local phone book to identify professionals who practice in your area of interest. “Take a chance and call someone out of the blue,” she says. “Chances are you will get a very warm reception.”

Take the Initiative

Once you’ve landed your first healthcare job, start to scope out potential mentors immediately, experts say. Some healthcare employers have formal mentoring or preceptorship programs for employees. You can learn a lot from an assigned preceptor, experts say, but preceptors are usually spread exceedingly thin. Once your training is over, your preceptor will probably be assigned to someone new. Your best bet is to try to identify a potential mentor yourself. “Ideally, mentors should be selected by mentees,” says registered respiratory therapist Carl P. Wiezalis, MS, a professor in the department of cardiorespiratory sciences at the State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University at Syracuse and past president of the American Association for Respiratory Care.

Choose Wisely

Your boss should not be your mentor, Wiezalis cautions. “It needs to be someone who is not doing your annual evaluation,” he says. “It has to be someone you feel safe with and someone who won’t drill you for being candid and sharing your heartfelt concerns.” Your mentor should also be knowledgeable about your workplace, he says. Some organizations keep lists of people who have volunteered to serve as mentors, and you could select someone from the list. If your workplace doesn’t keep a list and you haven’t met anyone you think would make a good mentor, ask for suggestions from your colleagues in the human resources, staff development or education departments.

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