4 Essential Skills Healthcare Students Need

Healthcare students, no matter what different courses they are on, all need very similar skills in order to be successful in their field. Whether they want to be doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, midwives, or any range of specialists, these students will eventually have to listen and interact with patients, requiring them to be trained, and skilled communicators.

If you’re a healthcare student, some of these necessary skills may not come naturally to you, but they are possible to learn and improve during your course. Here is our list of what we think are the most essential skills to have, and some tips on how to implement them once in a healthcare profession.

Numerical Skills

For any healthcare student, whether mathematics if your forte or one of your weaker subjects, numerical skills will be imperative to your success. Obviously, the level of the maths you do will depend on the particular course you are enrolled on, for example, med students are required to have advanced numerical skills, and are required to complete a lot of maths during the course.

General medical professionals require numerical skills for dosage calculations and other tasks, but the maths study on these courses is way less intense than that of a doctor. Some nurses however, will need to complete further study to improve numerical ability, among other skills, allowing them to take on certain roles. For example, many GP nurses complete either an in house or online family nursing practitioner program, providing them with the appropriate numerical skills to interpret lab results and x-ray data.

Empathy When talking to Patients

Being empathetic towards patients is key when trying to make them feel comfortable and building a trusting relationship with them. If people have come to a doctor or professional with their problems, they expect a genuine and understanding response, and a proficient approach to solving the issue.

Often, people confuse empathy with sympathy, which can cause issues with patients. Why is sympathy not also important? Well, even though sympathy can be an important quality, the truth is patients don’t come to visit medical professionals to be pitied, they come looking for solutions. It is easy for sympathy to come across as patronising to a patient, and can sometimes actually be inappropriate – if a patient states their symptoms, they don’t expect “Oh that’s so terrible, I’m so sorry!” as a response, they want an explanation and a diagnosis.

Appropriate Listening Skills

Much like the last skill, listening skills are so important when trying to make a patient feel trust towards you. For most healthcare professionals, a large percentage of their day to day work will be talking to and listening to patients, and doing this correctly is imperative.

One of the most important parts of this skill is to be able to listen to what patients say without immediately making assumptions, but still be able to come to a conclusive diagnosis. Clearly, asking questions is also an important part of the job, but developing more direct questions can be improved through the information the patient gives you.

Evidently, some elements to healthcare jobs are have little to no patient contact, for example management jobs and technicians. Listening skills are still important for these roles, as you will still need to communicate with colleagues, and doing so will help you to maintain positive professional relationships. There have been many issues surrounding this topic throughout the healthcare system, especially between doctors and nurses, or generally more junior members of staff. What all students aiming to be in a healthcare profession should remember is to listen to and respect ever other member of staff as an equal: they’ve all done their own training and know their stuff.

Sensitivity When Approaching Tough Issues

Finally, this skill might be one of the hardest for healthcare students to adjust to when entering their respective fields, because simply, there are many correct ways to approach issues sensitively. Medical professionals should be trying to make their patients feel like they are in a “safe space” where they can talk about sensitive subjects, such as mental and sexual health. Asking intrusive questions or generally acting in an abrasive manner when asking patients about personal subjects can be detrimental to your relationship, and could have a knock-on effect on their health if they don’t feel comfortable telling you about sensitive issues.

A huge issue that can cause this is discrimination against specific genders, and ethnic minorities when they seek health care. For example, many transgender people go for as many as five years without visiting a medical provider as they are worried about potentially being mistreated by their doctor, nurse, or medical specialist. Obviously, these patients that are often faced with discrimination in the healthcare system, are the least likely to be open about sharing sensitive issues with professionals due to fear of judgement. This is why establishing a trusting and comfortable environment for your patients is imperative when approaching sensitive issues.

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