Chances are good that if you’re reading this blog post, you have some vested interest in health communications. Whether you are a health professional or find yourself on the communications side, your journey is unique.
Having found myself in the field of healthcom, I always find it interesting to learn how others found their way here. Here’s my story.
In 2012, I had been working for eight years in various capacities for different hospitals but was a little frustrated because I hadn’t found my niche. The job market prior to that year was rough. My bachelor’s degree was in Health Service Administration and I was as passionate as one could be about everything it entails, but I found myself always gravitating toward more creative endeavors. I was working in media relations because it was a great way for me to pull all of my skills together. But the media industry was recreating itself—newspapers were going digital and audiences were craving new formats for TV with the integration of social media. I felt a lot of pressure from outside people vying to be in my shoes as fleeing journalists started switching their careers over to the PR side where there was more job security.
It was a hard place to be in. I felt like those former members of the media had an advantage over me in that they had more contacts having worked alongside the people I would be pitching to. At the same time, I felt really confident in my ability to seek and tell a good story from a multitude of angles because I had spent so much time getting to know the health care consumer.
It seemed that if I wanted to survive in the PR world of hospitals, I would have to go back to school and study journalism or reinvent myself just to remain competitive. I’d started doing research on graduate programs but panicked because most of them required you to start your career over completely. What I was really scared of was becoming a “jack-of-all-trades, but master of none.” It took me an entire year to finish the “Statement of Purpose” required by most schools because I had no idea where I fit into this new market.
While skimming across information online, I stumbled upon the Health Communication program at Boston University. Line by line, the more I read about what the degree entailed, I found myself excitedly nodding in agreement with the requirements for working in the field. There were finally words to describe the path I had been trying to go down for YEARS. I had never really heard of any schools offering such a specialty track, nor had I seen any job descriptions particularly seeking someone with healthcom expertise.
It has been difficult at times to explain what I am studying to outsiders, because it’s not an M.B.A. or advanced health degree. I typically refer to PRSA‘s description — give or take: “Individuals who specialize in health care public relations are in charge of handling internal and external communications for a health care facility. They interact with physicians, nurses, managers, administrators and patients, and therefore, must have excellent communication skills. Some responsibilities include writing for internal publications and handling media calls, as well as writing and creating various materials that promote services offered at that facility.”
In my last interview, for my current job in digital media, I was asked what set me apart from other candidates. My answer: “Not only can I do this job, but I know how our industry works.” I’ve cried with a patient’s family, participated in serious strategic or financial meetings, picked paint colors for a wall, escorted celebrity patients through back doors to avoid press, sat in a lobby with the doors bolted shut during a hurricane lock down just in case someone was crazy enough to drive themselves in… You name it, I have lived to tell the world about it. That’s just what people like us do!