Use a SWOT Analysis to Build Your Nursing or Healthcare Career

And just what, you may ask, is this odd-sounding SWOT analysis and how can it help your career? Actually, it’s a terrifically useful career-planning tool, one that can help you prepare for all those changes in the nursing and healthcare management professions that are undoubtedly heading our way.

Businesses use SWOT analyses (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to help them plot their next moves. Where should they spend their money, where save it? What opportunities should they go after, and which aren’t worth the effort? That same approach can be just as valuable for you as figure out your next career moves.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

These are specifically tied to your career goals. So, for instance, if you’ve worked for as an RN in a large urban hospital for five years and your goal is to become a medical informatics specialist for a firm that specializes in healthcare data, your previous expertise is definitely in the “strengths” category. If, on the other hand, you haven’t been actively working in a records-focused job or don’t have any relevant coursework that would enhance your skills here, your lack of knowledge or experience in this area would be in your “weaknesses” category.

Identifying opportunities and threats

Opportunities and threats are about external circumstances – what’s going on in the nursing and healthcare management field that may affect your career goals? (You have less control over these than you do your strengths and weaknesses, because opportunities and threats involve others’ actions and decisions.)

An example of an opportunity if your career goal is to become a medical informatics specialist for a healthcare data firm is the expansion in demand among both providers and consumers of medical and healthcare information. Given public health policy-making, biomedical research and development, and the trend toward using data to make strategic decisions among healthcare providers, all aspects of medical/healthcare data-related work are likely to grow.

A threat would be the possibility that healthcare data firms started moving away from employing medical informatics specialists and instead relied on automated processes to fulfill the role previously held by informatics specialists. Although this isn’t necessarily the case with today’s medical analytics firms, it’s an example of the type of potential career threat that you might consider.

Learning from your SWOT analysis

The reason to do a SWOT analysis is to be able to tilt the odds in your favor: if you can identify an area of career “weakness,” you can do something about it. For example, if a lack of experience in medical informatics is an area of weakness, you could strengthen your position by trying to shift your work responsibilities to include more records work, volunteer to take on projects focused on informatics, or take courses in American Sentinel’s Nursing Informatics program. You might want to join a professional association related to medical or nursing informatics where you could volunteer and meet people in the profession. Bottom line: once you’ve identified your weaknesses relative to a specific career goal, you can steps to fix them.

With opportunities and threats, on the other hand, think “hope for the best and plan for the worst.” Roughly translated to your career, that means you want to position yourself to take advantage of potential career opportunities and, to the extent possible, create “Plan B” action plans in case the threats you’ve identified go live.

For example, an opportunity might be that your region is becoming a hub for start-up, innovative healthcare data services firms. A threat would be that your state economic environment is not conducive to business growth, and so it’s difficult for those healthcare data start-ups to succeed.

In that case, your Plan B might be to consider relocating to a region with a healthier economic climate for healthcare data companies, or to explore potential alternative opportunities for medical informatics jobs in your region where you could continue to grow your career in a new direction.

Think of your SWOT analysis as a terrific diagnostic tool for moving your career toward your next career goal. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses enables you to maximize the former and improve the latter. And although you have much less control over opportunities and threats, by taking steps in advance to position for either outcome you’ll be much better prepared to thrive on opportunities and survive the threats.

Try your own SWOT analysis

Ready to test this out? Grab pen and paper, and create your own four-quadrant grid, similar to this:

Your answers to the following questions should give you a feel for the types of issues to consider in regards to your specific career goals:

Possible strengths:

  • What skills do you have that are unique, current, and in-demand relative to your target opportunity?
  • What professional development courses or training have you recently completed?
  • Do you have network connections in your field of interest?
  • Do you have positive relations with previous employers who could recommend your work?

Possible weaknesses:

  • Do you have an out-of-date skill set?
  • Have you neglected opportunities to build your professional network?
  • Have you avoided keeping up with current nursing or healthcare technologies?
  • Do you dislike dealing with change, or having to adapt to it?

Possible opportunities:

  • Are there a lot of potential employers in your region?
  • Is the field you’re interested in economically healthy and growing?
  • Does there seem to be a healthy number of new startups in this field?
  • Is there a shortage of skilled information workers in this area?

Possible threats:

  • Are companies in your area of interest struggling in your region?
  • Have there been recent layoffs at companies you were considering for employment?
  • Are potential regulatory constraints liable to damage employment opportunities?
  • Are information jobs in this field susceptible to being automated or outsourced?

Obviously not all of these questions will apply to your specific circumstances. But consider them to be representative of ones that might be relevant for you, and then think through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats likely to apply to your career goals. Once you’ve worked through your SWOT analysis, it will be much easier for you to identify and prioritize your next career steps.

This article was brought to you by American Sentinel’s career coach, Kim Dority – be sure to check out her other articles for more tips.