A Closer Look at the Pros and Cons of Working in a Hospital
You’ve always had a penchant for helping others and now that it’s time to choose a career, healthcare seems like a natural fit. After all, what’s not to like about a career that allows you to make a truly positive impact on the lives of others?
Of course, healthcare workers and the positive impact they bring can be found in a variety of settings. From doctor’s offices to outpatient clinics, you’ve probably thought about where you would work best. Does a big, bustling epicenter of medical care fit your style?
If you’re wondering whether working in a hospital is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. To help with that, we turned to the experts to give you an inside look at hospital life. Learn from their experience as we examine the pros and cons of working in a hospital and discover whether this fast-paced medical environment is right for you.
The advantages of working in a hospital
There’s a lot to love about working in a hospital. Here are some of the benefits you can expect.
Making a difference
Maybe it’s the reason you got into the healthcare field. There’s no denying the great impact you can make on patients’ lives, whether you’re working at the bedside or behind the scenes. Healthcare careers are some of the most rewarding careers as you work to save lives and get people back on their feet.
Will Haynes, spouse of a hospital pediatrician, says that while you are making an impact on lives by literally saving lives, you are also making a difference in your patients’ educations. Haynes says that hospital workers regularly help dispel myths and misconceptions held by both patients and their families.
Projected job growth
People will always need medical care, but now is an especially great time to work in healthcare. The massive baby boomer population is reaching the age that tends to require more medical services, which should be a positive force for healthcare job security.
As such, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the healthcare industry to add approximately 2.4 million new jobs by 2026, which is more than any other occupational group.1
These fast-growing jobs aren’t limited to workers with advanced degrees, either. If your goal is to join the healthcare industry as quickly as possible, there are a variety of in-demand entry-level positions.
Variety in your days
If you grow tired of seeing the same faces day in and day out, working in a hospital may be for you.
“One of the pros to working in a hospital is that you get to meet someone new every day,” says former EMT Christopher Sharp.
Working in a hospital means you’ll see a variety of patients from all walks of life who are experiencing all types of health conditions. And because hospitals are so big and employ so many people, you’ll most likely interact with a variety of other healthcare professionals during your shifts too.
“It never gets boring and there’s tons of room to grow, do research, perform outreach and more,” Haynes says.
You’re part of a big team
Regardless of your role in the hospital, you’ll likely work with a combination of doctors, nurses, medical assistants, lab technicians, pharmacists and more, all to achieve the same goal: improving and maintaining patients’ health.
“Those in healthcare can’t know everything, but they have access to their team and other teams, who all have the same goal,” Haynes says. Working collaboratively with others in a hospital allows patients to receive holistic treatment and gives you the chance to learn and grow from your team.
The disadvantages of working in a hospital
Similar to most work environments, there are a few drawbacks to working in a hospital setting. Here are a few of the less-than-ideal aspects you should be aware of.
There’s no promising what type of patients you’ll encounter working in a hospital. Being sick or injured isn’t any fun, so expect to deal with some cranky and unruly patients. Families may demand that you cater to their loved one at all times, and while you wish you could, hospitals are busy and you won’t be able to dedicate all your time to one patient.
On the flip side, you will encounter patients to whom you grow particularly close as you root for their recovery. You may be surprised at how close you become to them and their families, which makes the hours spent with difficult patients all worth it.
Seeing sickness and death
“You have to deal with a large amount of suffering, and a lot of the time there is nothing you can do to alleviate it,” Sharp says.
While you may try your hardest and provide the best care you can, you will inevitably have patients whose health is out of your control. It can be emotionally draining to get attached to patients and then see them deteriorate. On the other hand, you’ll also have the gratification of bringing patients back to health and watching them recover under your care.
It can be draining physically
Healthcare workers can work longer-than-average shifts, with some working more than 12 hours in a day. In addition to spending your day inside, you could be on your feet the entire time, moving back and forth between patient rooms.
For those who loathe desk jobs, this could be a surprising benefit. For those looking for a more sedentary job, a patient-facing career may not be the right fit. Consider a job as a medical secretary or coder instead, where you can still be involved in the hospital while limiting the physicality of your job.
Sickness doesn’t operate on a 9 to 5 schedule, so be prepared to work outside of normal business hours, on weekends and even on holidays. If you tend to be a morning bird or a night owl, a nontraditional schedule with hours working early in the morning or late into the night could be what you need.
If you’re looking to have every holiday off, then working in a hospital that never closes may not be ideal. Some employers may offer increased holiday pay to offset these unconventional shifts.
Is working in a hospital for you?
Hospitals are a focal point of healthcare, but does working in a hospital match your interests and goals? No job will be 100 percent perfect, and you may be hesitant about unruly patients or nontraditional schedules that come along with hospital work. Remember that with any negative, there are positives to consider as well—it’s up to you to decide what’s most important.
If you’d like working in a hospital to be in your near future, you’ll want to check out our article, “The Ultimate List of Healthcare Jobs You Can Launch in 2 Years or Less.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Healthcare Occupations [information accessed January 23, 2019] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in March 2013. It has since been updated. Insights from Sharp remain from the previous version.