When you think about someone who is a rockstar in the business/finance/technology world, your thoughts likely go to someone on the ‘40 under 40′ list or a unicorn guru who started a company from their garage and now owns a piece of Manhattan or Silicon Valley. Most likely, you’re not going to thing about the nurse who took care of you after your appendectomy or the occupational therapist who helped your grandpa dress himself after having a stroke. It’s a crying shame because healthcare workers can be total badasses who will absolutely rock in positions like product management, data analysis, engineering, and UX.
As a physical therapist assistant, I know the importance of wearing multiple hats. Your focus is physical rehabilitation, but you’re also emotional support, a family counselor, insurance advocate, medical secretary, and private investigator. That’s before even deep diving into the knitty-gritty parts that require actual data-analysis, stakeholder management, and basic understanding of the Agile Manifesto. When you look at a resume for someone who’s background is in mid-level healthcare positions, don’t pass them up without considering the following:
They are a multi-tasking wizard. While working in physical therapy on any given day I would see anywhere from 8–20 patients. Each had their own unique diagnosis, with their own treatment plan, and generally a list of do’s and don’ts to follow (such as allergies, contraindications, or post-surgical protocols). I often worked with more than one patient at a time, which meant remembering all the important things listed above, as well as making sure each person got the proper one-on-one time necessary for good patient care. In some cases, such as in emergency room or ICU care, the inability to multitask could literally cost someone their life.
They work well on multifunctional teams. Wile each person is focused in a specific area with their own goals and requirements, they still have to work together for the greater good of the patient. This means adjusting schedules, working with a different discipline to accomplish a task without causing added stress to the person you’re caring for, and navigating the sea of egos that flows through any work area where credentials vary from certifications to doctoral degrees.
They are Agile. Our bodies are wonderfully designed, however that does not mean things always go as planned when it comes to treating an injury or illness. It’s the same as hitting a roadblock or having requirements change when working on a project or product. Healthcare workers know the importance of either pivoting or starting back at square one if a treatment is not producing the desired results. In fact, it’s expected. People get re-injured, infections happen, and medications sometimes come with undesired side effects. When any of that happens, the original treatment plan has to be modified, if not dropped in favor of a new direction. Sound familiar?
They get to the root of the problem. Pain is not a diagnosis. If you go to your doctor for pain they will try to find the source of your pain. I know we all have our horror stories, myself included, about issues going undiagnosed and leading to bigger problems. However, medical professionals are taught to always treat the root cause of the pain, rather than just the symptoms. You have to ask ‘why?’ more than just 5 times. You have to analyse data such as; results from blood work, diagnostic testing, patient history, and current medications and their side effects and interactions. From there, conclusions are drawn, a diagnosis is made, and a treatment plan is built.
They are excellent at stakeholder management. If you had your rotator cuff repaired, you should not expect to be playing tennis in a week or even a month, but I still had to break that news to more people than I care to admit. It often falls on mid-level healthcare providers to deliver news (good and bad) and manage patient expectations regarding recovery timelines, tailored diets, and a general list of do’s and don’ts. They are required to play middle man and communicate protocols and concerns from the physician to the patient, and the needs and concerns of the patient to the physician. Maintaining that balance of communication and mutual understanding between all parties can be a tricky task but when done correctly the results often speak for themselves.
You will never hear them say “That’s not my job.” When I was working in the rehab unit of a hospital any time I went to take a patient from their room to the rehab floor for treatment, they had to go to the bathroom. It never failed. If you’ve ever had surgery or an illness that left you hospitalized, you know that something as simple as relieving your bladder becomes a whole production. Wires need to me managed, clothing needs to be arranged, and sometimes protective equipment needs to be donned or doffed. Was it my job to help someone in the bathroom before starting my treatment with them? No. Did I do it because it needed to be done and was the right thing to do? Absolutely, every time. No matter what your job ‘duties’ are, your responsibility is always to do what’s best for the patient. For non-healthcare positions, just switch the word patient to project, product, or company and it remains the same.
The stay calm in stressful situations. When it’s about to hit the fan, the most valuable person in the room is the one who can keep their head level and their tone even. The ability to think quick and act correctly is engrained in all seasoned healthcare workers. Controlling the autonomic responses of your sympathetic nervous system is not easy, but when it’s a part of your daily life it becomes your superpower. It may not always be a life or death situation, but one wrong move in a stressful situation can still be detrimental to your product, team, or company.
When it comes back to considering the resume sitting in front of you, not every mid-level healthcare worker will possess all these attributes. However, that does not mean they should be immediately filtered out of consideration solely because their job experience is in a different sector. Give them a shot at interviewing and I think you will find yourself pleasantly surprised.