Is there a more important job sector than medical field careers? It's hard to think of any. The world can be a harsh place; but thankfully, human beings with a knack for caregiving have been around for thousands of years. Curious, inquisitive people have discovered ways to extend people's lives and make them more enjoyable. Diseases have been cured, and medical technology seems to advance on a daily basis.
The history of medical field careers appears to have its beginnings in ancient civilizations, when shamans and medicine men (and women) cured people with spiritual prayers and herbal, ritualistic cleansings. The Mayans and Incans rubbed herbal mixtures on the skin to rid the patient of evil spirits or demons. Foundations for Western medicine lie with the Greeks and Egyptians. Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian healer, would have never guessed that the treatments he prescribed way back in 2600 B.C. would form the basis for medical field careers all these centuries later.
Hippocrates and Galen are just two Greek practitioners to first observe and treat people in a manner similar to how today's physicians treat patients. Hippocrates is known as the Father of Modern Medicine and writer of the Hippocratic Oath, the pledge physicians make to treat patients ethically and without harm upon graduating from medical school. Hippocrates was the first to accurately observe and diagnose clubbing of the fingers, pneumonia, and epilepsy. He broke from the traditional thinking of his day and proffered that illness is a result of things that actually physically happen to a person rather than a curse by gods or demons. Galen was one of the first known surgeons of his time and made many observations about the human anatomy. The work these early pioneers did laid the groundwork for the medical field careers we know of today.
The Middle Ages saw death tolls rise from unsanitary living conditions and illnesses from rodent infestation such as the bubonic plague. It wasn't until the late nineteenth century during the Industrial Revolution that those working in medical field careers saw the advancement of hygienic conditions. Germ theory was introduced, and it denounced the belief that disease and illness were caused by superstitions, a centuries-held belief. Joseph Lister, a British surgeon, first postulated the need for proper hand washing and sterilization of surgical instruments. Prior to this discovery, people believed that wounds and infections were the result of "bad air." The popular mouthwash, Listerine, is so named in Lister's honor. Edward Jenner developed the vaccine for smallpox during this time. Louis Pasteur, the French chemist, developed the method for preserving milk (pasteurization), making it safer to drink. He also developed vaccines for rabies and anthrax. René Laennec developed the first stethoscope. German physicist William Roentgen discovered X-rays. These giants are the forerunners of the people serving today in medical field careers.
The twentieth century brought even more advancements in medicine - many of which we still use today. One of the most important discoveries was that of penicillin by Scottish pharmacologist Alexander Fleming. Marie Curie discovered radium - an important element used in the treatment of cancer. Those working in medical field careers made many improvements in the area of cardiac care. Angiocatheters, heart pumps, and even the artificial heart were discovered in the 1900s. Watson and Crick discovered DNA, and Jonas Salk introduced the first killed-virus vaccine for polio, an affliction affecting thousands of people. Albert Sabin followed with the development of an oral polio vaccine. Pacemakers, baboon hearts, and test-tube babies rounded out a century of discovery in medical field careers. Our lives are better thanks to these talented and enterprising individuals.
If you are inquisitive, enterprising, and caring, a career in medicine will appeal to you. There are many avenues one can take into this field; you don't necessarily have to be a physician.
The advantages of working in a medical field career are numerous. Medical field careers normally attract those who are caring, inquisitive, and industrious, so understanding the benefits of working in this arena is easy.
The most satisfying aspect of working in medicine is the fulfillment one receives from helping others. Diagnosing, caring for, and treating sick people is rewarding. Educating patients about health and wellness is also gratifying. Knowing you've touched a person's life in such an intimate and personal way is deeply satisfying. Assisting someone through a difficult illness or the loss of a loved one offers rewards some will never know. Connecting with patients and their families on such a deep and personal level is what keeps many health care providers in the profession.
Not everyone can stomach working in the medical field. Blood and body fluids bother some people; others can't stand to see people in pain or handle traumatic situations; these reasons contribute to the high earning potential for medical field careers. People working in medicine are compensated well for years spent in school, level of academic achievement, and for their willingness to work in an area where many others cannot. Nurses, for example, are often paid higher shift differentials (more money per hour) when they work evening and overnight shifts - times often considered less than desirable because they interfere with family and sleep time.
Working in the medical field often offers a great deal of scheduling flexibility. Nurses appreciate this benefit of their jobs. Mothers of young children can work around school schedules to be home with their families. Many people in the medical field also opt to work weekend shifts to accommodate their families' needs. Working weekends usually means more money as well. Unfortunately, people become ill at all hours every day. The medical field needs people working around the clock, so there is a work schedule to fit just about anyone's lifestyle.
Medical field careers are in high demand because people are always sick. There will always be a need for health care providers - no matter what the specialty - doctors, nurses, or X-ray technicians.
Another advantage of having a career in medicine is a stimulating job environment. Working in medicine means you will always be challenged and you will always be learning something new. Each new patient means a new illness or set of circumstances, a new diagnosis, and a new way of approaching problem solving. You will have the opportunity to work with intelligent, driven individuals who have the same interests and careers goals you may have. You will never be bored working in any of the fascinating medical field careers.
Drawbacks to medical field careers exist and should be considered carefully before one embarks on this career path. First, many positions within the medical field require years of schooling followed by years of internship and/or residency. Secondly, stress levels among health care workers are often very high. In a report on America's most stressful jobs, CNBC listed surgeon as number four (CNBC, 2010). Having a patient's life in your hands is a tremendous responsibility, whether you're a surgeon or not. Having to work with many different people every day adds to the stress. Health care professionals cannot discriminate; they have to be open to different cultures, differing perspectives, and different ways of approaching life - and death. Patients, often stressed because of illness and being away from their homes, can be demanding and difficult to please. Other health care professionals can also be demanding and difficult to please. All of these things combined mean more stress for the health care worker. Long days and nights, rotating schedules…all of these issues add up to increased workplace stress.
Working in the medical field can be both physically and emotionally arduous. Doctors and nurses in particular, spend countless hours standing on their feet. Having to lift patients puts physical stress on backs and legs. Many doctors and nurses develop skin sensitivities to Latex gloves. Many health care workers don't eat and sleep well due to working different shifts and long hours. It's very easy for these individuals to get off their normal everyday schedules and fall short when taking care of themselves.
Another disadvantage of medical field careers is how competitive they are, especially in the higher earning jobs. This means you need to spend more time in school or getting health care experience to be more marketable. The higher you ascend on the medical field career ladder, the more likely you are to encounter driven, highly educated people - people who may prevent you from getting the job you want.
Medical field careers are also time consuming. They demand so much time away from your friends and family. Divorce rates among health care workers are high compared to other professions. Long hours, workplace demands, and the inability to leave work at work are some of the reasons those in the medical field struggle with personal relationships.
Health care providers often suffer from "burn out" after caring for sick people all the time. The demands and stress of the job coupled with facing serious illnesses become overwhelming, and many people in medicine end up feeling like they need a break or like they need to leave the field altogether.
Many aspects of working in medicine are challenging and need to be fully considered before entering this field. Having a strong support network is crucial if one is going to be successful in a medical career.