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Characteristics of the Health-Care Professional

Although health-care workers are employed in many different career areas and in a variety of
facilities, certain personal and professional characteristics and attitudes apply to all health-
care personnel. Recognizing the need for these qualities will not only help you to decide if a
health-care career is right for you, it can help you to succeed once you begin.

For starters, consider the following:

Can you communicate concisely and accurately in a well-modulated voice?

Would you dress appropriately and neatly as is suitable for a professional?

Do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Do you have a genuine interest in peoples welfare?

Do you seek to understand others and their needs?

Are you tactful and courteous when dealing with others?

Can you keep your composure under pressure?

Do you assume responsibility for your actions at all times?

Do you persevere to complete tasks and meet your goals?

Are you willing and able to follow directions, both written and verbal?

Do you gracefully accept criticism that is warranted?

Do you constantly seek to improve your performance over time?

Do you maintain ethical conduct in all of your professional and personal activities?

Do you promptly meet responsibilities competently?

Do you understand and respect the limits of your abilities?

Affirmative answers to the majority of these questions is a sign that you are ready for the
responsibilities of a health-care career. The following sections will discuss some of the
required characteristics in more depth.

Personal Qualities

There are many personal attributes and attitudes that are required of those entering the health-
care professions. While many of these are positive traits to exhibit in any job (such as
dependability), others are especially important in a health-care setting (such as empathy). It is
important for you to continue to cultivate these personal qualities throughout your career.
Empathy: This means being able to identify with and remain sensitive to another persons
feelings, situation, and state of being. Health-care practitioners frequently have professional
contact with individuals of varying ages, ranging from the newborn to the elderly. A
prerequisite for employment in health care is being sincerely interested in working with
people, being able to communicate with them, and being sympathetic to their needs. Good
interpersonal skills, then, are the primary vehicle to developing and expressing empathy.

Honesty: Having integrity is essential for a successful career in any field. People must feel
confident that they can place their trust in you. In the health-care profession, especially,
people seeking care need to feel secure about the information they are given and the level of
care they are being provided. A corollary of being honest is a willingness to promptly
acknowledge an error so that it can be rectified without delay. In health-care professions,
such errors can sometimes be matters of life or death.

Dependability: This personal quality is essential since employers and patients place their
trust in the health-care workers providing services. Being dependable means being prompt
when reporting for work and responding to assignments. It also requires that all tasks be
completed as is expected and required. While much of the work of health-care professionals
is routine, new situations, information, and approaches often arise. One must be ready to
adapt to these changes. Employers and patients alike will count on you to deal with obstacles
and overcome frustrations of various types.

Open to criticism: Realize at the outset that no person is perfect and that experience will
enhance performance. Almost any situation in a health-care setting can be a learning
experience. This being the case, one should be prepared to accept constructive criticism
gracefully. The source of the criticism can come from your supervisor, coworker, or even a
client or patient. Be gracious in your reaction and response, and try to see the situation from
the others point of view. This advice assumes that criticism is offered respectfully, of course.

Enthusiasm: The manner in which one meets their responsibilities is important. Your
enthusiasm can have a positive effect on fellow coworkers as well as clients or patients. It
shows you care about and are invested in your work, which in turn will make those around
you more confident in your abilities.

Self-motivation: While your job description provides overall guidance as to your


responsibilities, it is essential that you fill the roles that arent necessarily spelled out in a
formal document. That means taking the initiative to learn new skills and accept additional
responsibilities. Such actions will reflect positively on your sincerity, creativity, and
commitment to the position.

Competence: Supervisors, coworkers, and especially patients, rely on you to do your job to
the best of your ability and to meet your responsibilities. If you are ever uncertain about an
assigned task, it is essential to seek clarification early on, rather than after a mistake is made.

Discretion: It is essential that you be discrete with regard to what you say to patients or
clients to ensure that they not become too upset or discouraged. Information that is clearly
relevant to the patients well-being (positive or negative), should be noted in the record, and
if critical, should be reported orally to ones superior.
Responsibility: This implies a willingness to be held accountable for ones actions. Acting
responsibly will encourage others to put their trust in you and believe you will carry out your
duties faithfully.

Team-player: In any health-care field, success depends on the combined efforts of many. It
is thus vital that you work well as part of team. Doing so allows you to be a greater asset to
your patients and can enhance your position in the eyes of your other team members and
superiors.

Personal Health

Working in health care means having an obligation to promote good health and prevent
disease. To further this goal, it is essential to maintain ones own health. After all, it is hard to
convince patients or clients to take care of themselves if you arent providing a positive
model. Following are the five main factors contributing to personal good health:

Diet: Planning well-balanced meals and eating nutritious foods provides the body with the
resources needed to maintain optimal health. Foods from each of the five major groups
milk, meat, vegetables, fruits, and grainsshould be eaten daily to meet ones dietary needs.

Rest: Adequate rest and sleep help to restore energy and combat stress. While sleep can be
harder to come by for some health-care professions, and each individual has their own
essential level of sleep requirements, generally 7 to 8 hours are recommended per day.

Exercise: Exercise maintains proper blood circulation and improves muscle tone. Exercise
also improves ones mental attitude and facilitates restful sleep. Its a good idea to exercise
daily and to create a regimen designed to fit your specific needs.

Good posture: Good posture helps prevent fatigue and lowers tension on the bodys
muscles.

Avoid substance abuse: Using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, can seriously impact your health.
Most substances can impair mental function and lower ones ability to make decisions.

Personal Appearance

When serving as a health-care worker it is important to become familiar with the required
standards of dress and appearance. These are set by your place of employment, though the
overall goal is usually to make a clean, neat, and professional appearance. While most of the
requirements for personal appearance are similar to any field or job, some are more specific
to the health-care professions. Be sure to consider the following:

Uniform: Many health occupations require a uniform. This should conform to the type
customarily used at the institution of employment. The uniform should be clean and pressed
so that it is wrinkle-free and fits properly. Appropriate jewelry, such as a wedding ring,
watch, small pierced earrings, etc., is usually acceptable.

Name badge: For security reasons, most health-care facilities require that their personnel
wear name-badges or photo identification tags at all times.
Shoes: Some health-care occupations and specific facilities favor wearing white shoes.
Irrespective of color, it is important is that your shoes fit well, provide strong foot support,
and have low heels. This will serve to diminish foot fatigue and prevent accidents. After all,
many health-care professions require workers to be on their feet most of the day.

Personal grooming: Health-care workers usually come into close physical contact with
patient/clients. Thus, it is essential that workers be clean and odorfree. Nails should be kept
short and clean, since long and painted fingernails can both injure patients and be sites for
carrying germs. Long nails also can tear or puncture elastic gloves, commonly used in many
procedures. Hair should be kept clean and easy to care for.