Healthcare Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 8, 2021

Healthcare skills can vary between the technical skills required of medical professionals and the soft skills that apply to many fields. A doctor definitely needs technical expertise in medicine, but being able to communicate well, empathize with patients and manage stress can also be important. As a healthcare professional, developing these soft skills can be just as beneficial as your technical skills, including when you're looking for work. In this article, we define healthcare skills, provide examples, recommend ways to improve and show how to showcase them during the hiring process.

What are healthcare skills?

Healthcare skills are those skills that are helpful for people working in a healthcare role. If you are looking for work in the healthcare field, you may want to show on your resume and cover letter that you have the necessary skills. While certain healthcare positions require specific skills, particularly if you have an area of specialization, many healthcare jobs need similar skills. If you are preparing a healthcare skills resume, you usually want to review the job you're applying for and what skills they are asking for.

Related: The Healthcare Resume: Definition, How-to and Examples

Examples of healthcare skills

While there are skills specific to each kind of healthcare role, such as Registered Nurses (RNs), Nurse Practitioners (NPs), doctors of varying specialties, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and administrative staff, there are also a wide range of skills that can benefit any healthcare professional. Here are some healthcare skills that can help a variety of healthcare professionals:

Communication skills

Whether you are a nurse or a receptionist in a health clinic, you likely need to interact with patients and your coworkers. Communication skills are those that make communicating with your patients and colleagues easier, including active listening. You might need to explain test results to a patient or answer questions about scheduling an appointment, and communication skills can help with that.

Related: How To Be a Good Communicator

Positive attitude

A positive attitude can be very helpful when interacting with patients and coworkers. Emphasizing that this is one of your skills on a healthcare skills resume can show potential employers that you try to be easy to work with and positive when you're speaking with colleagues and patients.

Time management

Healthcare facilities from hospitals to small clinics all have busy times, so it's helpful for healthcare professionals to have good time management skills. This may allow you to see patients more efficiently or handle insurance paperwork more quickly.

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Flexibility

The daily schedules of healthcare workers can vary depending on the needs of patients and the needs of the healthcare facility they work at. Flexibility shows an employer that you can adjust as needed to complete your work, and that you are willing to adapt to changing circumstances.

Knowledge of HIPAA

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a federal law that protects the information of patients. HIPAA plays a big role in the daily work of healthcare employees, regardless of the type of work you are doing. Showing on your resume that you are knowledgeable about HIPAA indicates to potential employers that they can trust you with patient information, as you understand the legal protections in place.

Empathy

Empathy is an extremely important skill for healthcare workers, as you will probably encounter patients of all types with a variety of medical issues. If you can relate to the situations those patients are in and show them care, you are usually a more effective healthcare worker. Empathy can also be helpful in interacting with your coworkers, as you may find yourself more willing to help them if you consider their situation.

Stress management

Even in quiet medical clinics, you may work through stressful times, and if you work in an emergency room or other fast-paced environment, stress is a common issue. Showing potential employers you are ready to manage your stress so that it doesn't affect your work can be appealing in many work environments, including healthcare.

Related: How to De-stress at Work

Attention to detail

Whether you're scheduling patients or treating a patient's condition, having attention to detail can help ensure you get it right the first time. There are lots of details involved in working in healthcare, so emphasizing this healthcare skill on your resume can show potential employers that you won't have to make corrections to your work and won't miss important details.

Receptive attitude

Healthcare positions often involve learning new skills regularly, whether that's a technical skill related to advancements in medical technology or a new billing method for patients. Having a receptive attitude and stating that on your resume shows you are willing to learn new skills and open to constructive criticism.

Patience

Having patience with patients and colleagues often works with having empathy for them, as understanding their situation and needs may make you more patient while working with them. Emphasizing to a potential employer that you value patience as one of your skills shows them you are prepared to be patient with your coworkers, patients and employer.

How to improve healthcare skills

If you want to improve your healthcare skills to increase your chances of getting a new job or to add value to your performance at your current job, there are ways to enhance all the above skills. You may also decide to improve your technical healthcare skills, which might require enrolling in continuing education or practicing at work. Here are some ways you can improve your healthcare skills:

  1. Improve your communication skills. These skills can be improved through reading about advanced communication techniques, taking a class or doing other research on how to be an effective communicator. The best way to improve communication skills, however, is to practice regularly.

  2. Develop a positive attitude. Working on having a more positive attitude is a matter of rethinking your automatic responses to your environment, through practice and possibly even therapy if you decide that would be helpful. To start, if you react negatively, try to pause and consider a more positive reaction.

  3. Improve your time management. To improve time management, you may want to work on organizing your time more efficiently through methods like to-do lists. You may also find that reducing distractions throughout the day, whether that's chatting with coworkers or looking at your phone, can make your use of time more effectively.

  4. Practice your flexibility in the workplace. Becoming more flexible can be challenging if you are a more rigid person by nature, but it's not impossible with practice. Start with minor changes and see if you can increase your positive reaction to being asked to accommodate a last-minute change or anything else that requires flexibility on your part.

  5. Understand HIPAA. Increasing your knowledge of HIPAA is usually as simple as reading about the details of the law and gaining a firm understanding of what counts as protected information about patients that you should not reveal unless allowed.

  6. Learn empathy. Growing your skills with empathy can be like increasing your positive attitude in that therapy may help, but you can also work on how you react to situations on your own. If you are interacting with someone, you can try considering their point of view and situation to see if you can empathize with what they are dealing with. If you practice this enough, it can become an automatic reaction.

  7. Better your stress management techniques. Learning stress management usually involves increasing your knowledge of what reduces your stress, often through self-care. You can research ways you can manage your stress during the workday that don't take a great deal of time, so that you can de-stress and return to work.

  8. Focus on your attention to detail. Having more attention to detail often requires being fully present in each moment, so that you aren't distracted from noticing the details of what's going on around you. This might include blocking out all distractions as you speak with a patient or writing down what a coworker is saying to be sure you remember.

  9. Accept feedback. To increase your receptive attitude, you may want to prepare a list of things you can do if someone offers you constructive criticism that might help you understand their feedback and be receptive to what they're saying. This might include reminding yourself that they are trying to help, carefully considering the feedback they've given, avoiding defensive reactions and listening to feedback carefully.

  10. Become more patient. You can learn patience by practicing a few habits, such as making yourself wait to get something you want, being mindful of why you feel impatient and relaxing when you are impatient. With enough practice, you may find that you react patiently when you previously might have been impatient.

Healthcare skills in the workplace

Here are some ways you might use these healthcare skills in the workplace:

  • You can use your communication skills to explain medical procedures and policies to patients.

  • You can use a positive attitude in all your interactions with other people.

  • If you are using your time management skills at work, you can create to-do lists for your day.

  • Your flexibility can be particularly helpful if your manager or coworkers ask you to take on a task you rarely do.

  • Being knowledgeable about HIPAA helps you protect sensitive patient information.

  • Your empathy can most often be effective when listening to the issues a patient is having.

  • Practicing stress management throughout your day can make your work day seem easier.

  • Your attention to detail may help you find a diagnosis for a patient.

  • A receptive attitude can be most helpful if your manager or coworkers give you feedback on your performance.

  • Your patience can help as you wait for others to complete tasks.

How to highlight healthcare skills

You can highlight your healthcare skills through the steps of the hiring process, including on your resume and cover letter as well as in your interview. You may not need to showcase every skill at every step and instead could find it most effective to speak about different skills throughout. Here are some methods for showing your skills:

Healthcare skills for resume

In your resume, you can use previous job experience to show skills such as flexibility, knowledge of HIPAA, communication skills and time management. You can look at your duties at prior jobs and see what best shows these skills, such as how you improved your workplace's scheduling structure so that the staff was managing time more effectively. You can also show your attention to detail by making sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes on your resume.

Healthcare skills for cover letter

On your cover letter, you can spotlight skills like your positive attitude, your empathy and your receptive attitude, as well as any others you feel are relevant to the position you're applying for. The way you write about your previous experiences can show a potential employer that you are a positive and empathetic person who takes direction well.

Healthcare skills for interview

Before your interview, you may want to prepare a few stories that focus on skills you feel are especially relevant to the position you want. Reviewing the job listing again as well as the company website and any correspondence you've had with people there can give you insight into what is most important to mention. You can also show patience through the hiring process if it is lengthy.

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