How to Change Paths into the Healthcare Profession

Closeup portrait of man healthcare personnel with white labcoat, looking at brain x-ray radiographic image, ct scan.

Changing career paths is always one for creating trepidation in many individuals. It can be hard to admit, in the first place, that your first line of work was not the dream you thought it would be. Taking time out to tell your friends and family that you will be making a drastic change can take guts and determination.  

Healthcare is a profession that many go into with a determination to do some good in the world. Wanting to become a doctor shows a natural instinct to want to help and being a paramedic is a truly selfless job. 

If you are considering this shift, here are some methods for changing your career into becoming a healthcare professional.

Get a mentor

Mentors are the best way to get real insight into any industry. When you’re studying at school and then college, it can feel like you’re jumping through hoops just to get to the ultimate end goal of employment. 

Two senior healthcare workers in consultation laughing

We’re rarely given the opportunity to understand the progression first-hand or from the eyes of a real professional. A mentor can not only give you first-hand experience and information, but also the potential to shadow them through a day in their line of work. This will be useful later, too, when you need references. 

Fill out your resume

In order to be taken seriously be many medical colleges or universities, you will need to show an interest in the healthcare profession in some form. If your resume is otherwise pretty blank when it comes to medical experience, you will need to rectify this. 

Two female healthcare workers looking at a resume together

Shadowing your mentor or getting some extra work in a care home will help to show interviewers and those filtering the entry process that you are not just in it for the financial incentives. 

Part-time study 

Sometimes it’s not always possible to go back into full-time employment, particularly if you have a family to look after. If you wanted to be a TWU nurse practitioner, for example, you could easily study for this online. This allows you to be a little more flexible with your studying hours, meaning you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice your source of income for your new career path. 

Student of chemistry working with chemicals in laboratory

Did you serve in the military?

If you are looking to become a nurse because you served as part of the corpsmen in the military, there is an interesting loophole here. California law permits those who served to take the exam for an RN licence if they have adequate education and training. If you’re not in California, however, you may need to contact the board for more details. 

Close up portrait of young female soldier. Woman in military uniform on the war.

Apply for a scholarship

If you are struggling financially, or could really use some financial assistance to help you to progress in your studying, then it may benefit you to hunt down a scholarship. Some institutions will chip in money to support your career path, and many will also accept military personnel. The only stipulations are likely to be as following:

  • Completing an exam
  • Registering 
  • Your resume 
  • Your Grade Point Average 

Winning a scholarship could certainly lighten your financial load and take off some of the general pressure. Saving up to spend time off studying can be a stressful venture, and so any help is often welcome.

Young cheerful woman with dark curly hair in T-shirt joyfully looking in camera holding letter with exam results in hands

Study hard

It may seem somewhat obvious, but in order to work in healthcare, you are going to need to study hard and ace your exams. This is particularly the case for degrees where the stakes will be high, such as in medicine, nursing or dentistry. 

In order to become a dentist, for example, you will need to pass the Dental Acceptance Test. This will be your first major hurdle in order to get into dental school. The questions will have a strong focus on biology and quantitative reasoning

College girl study for exam

It’s estimated that most people will reach around the score of 19 – which takes the pressure off to need to be absolutely perfect. However, you should also know that more competitive colleges will want much higher scores. 

Ace the interview 

Interviews for the medical healthcare profession are likely be heavy-going, with the purpose of knowing whether you are truly capable of delivering expert patient care. Of course, to prepare for this, you will need to do as much research as possible. You should of course do plenty of reading and get an understanding of what they are likely to ask you, but you should also consider doing the following:

Portrait of bearded young businessman shaking hands with colleague in business meeting , copy space
  • Chat to those who have been there and done that: those who have completed an interview in the healthcare profession can give you some helpful tips. For example, find a friend who is a registered doctor, nurse, dentist or optometrist and ask them what they wish they’d known before the interview. 
  • Do some shadowing well in advance of your application. When you enrol onto a medical masters degree qualification, you know that your ultimate ambition is to get a worthwhile position from it – and so you should be anticipating an interview. Do some shadowing and work experience in the years during your course, as this will demonstrate to the interviewer that you have passion and enthusiasm, as well as arming you with knowledge. 

Get fit

While no college is going to give you a fitness test before a medical degree, it is recommended that you get into reasonable shape before working in the healthcare profession. Particularly for positions such as being a paramedic or a nurse, you will be on your feet for large stretches of the day. It can be incredibly challenging to go for a sedentary job to one where you will have to physically help people out of hospital beds or quickly pace around a hospital ward all day. 

Thoughtful fit woman leaning on wall

See getting fit as a general long-term goal before you start work in the field, not as an immediate requirement. 

Consider your relevant skills

It is possible to want to work in healthcare but not be on the front line in terms of providing medical assistance. You may, for example, actually want to work in the tech side of things instead. Working in medical IT is a highly sought-after niche of the healthcare industry and is not to be sniffed at if this actually lends well to your abilities. Clinicians and those with experience in healthcare are highly sought after in the medical IT realm, so don’t be put off from considering this role. 

Professional doctor working at office desk, using a digital tablet, healthcare and technology concept

The healthcare industry is also in need of those who can offer security and big data solutions. With so much sensitive data being produced and circulated, it is not surprising that this is a particularly high-demand part of healthcare IT. Therefore, having knowledge about healthcare, computing, and having the skills to project manage will never be under-valued. 

Be prepared for serious responsibility 

It won’t just be retraining and keeping up with the long hours that will be the most challenging aspects of your line of work. Once you qualify to be able to start working on wards and in surgeries, you will be given an extraordinary amount of responsibility. 

Two senior healthcare workers in consultation.

This will involve giving diagnoses, being asked questions by other professionals and dolling out prescriptions. While every person who is looking to become a nurse or doctor expect this at some point in their career, many are never quite prepared by how intimidating this can feel in practice

Make room for extra training 

If you are looking to study in medicine, and are ready to wrap up your degree after five years or so, then think again. Many medical professions require post-graduate degrees or extra years of study to qualify into more specialized and focussed areas. For example, if you wanted to become a general practitioner, then you will need an extra two years of study on top of your medical degree. 

Serious concentrated healthcare scientist in biohazard suit and respirator standing in laboratory and dropping blood while testing virus sample

Any part of the healthcare industry that seems incredibly niche or specialized is almost certainly likely to require some extra years in education to qualify for a position. 

What about higher paying roles?

In order to achieve that much-coveted higher salary bracket in healthcare, you will need to go into a much more advanced level of education. This will involve enrolling in a masters or doctorate degree. These postgraduate and extended degrees will see you become more qualified to carry out more complex and critical work with patients, which in turn will likely be rewarded with a higher salary. These postgraduate and doctorate degrees will complement a shorter medical degree perfectly if you are simply looking to broaden your horizons in the field. 

Healthcare workers sitting together in a modern hospital

Healthcare, like many other professions, requires demonstrable proof that you have both the academic capacity and the experience to show your interest. This can be hard if you are changing career paths entirely, but you should know that it is not impossible. You can illustrate your genuine passion by picking up healthcare work in the run up to your application, and by finding a helpful mentor. Once you qualify, you may be surprised by your urge to go in for more follow-up education to progress even further in the industry.