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What I’ve learned working in healthcare PR

Years ago, as I was entering the public relations agency ranks, I thought healthcare looked like a fun specialty to explore. I already had a general interest in health and wellness – having essentially competed in competitive sports since birth and having actually enjoyed science-based course work in school – which I thought would translate well into the big, bad business world. Oh, wee lamb!

Although I didn’t have unrealistic aspirations of becoming BFFs with Queen B while she promoted a performance drink or workout program, I did encounter a semi-harsh reality in learning that healthcare PR was drastically different than I expected. I was quickly tossed into the deep end of understanding about the ins and outs of promoting clinical trial results, launching healthcare delivery-enhancing products, advocating for better access to quality surgical care, raising awareness of healthcare disparities and hospital brands, and even educating surgical leaders on the professional value of Twitter. Needless to say, I was learning a lot about the business of healthcare and how to reach influencers I never knew existed…but I was loving it!

What’s exciting about working in healthcare PR is that it’s constantly evolving. Healthcare provides endless personal and professional learning opportunities as new technologies, policies, research, techniques, services and partnerships continuously alter the landscape.

A mix of quirky and practical, here are some of the things I’ve learned so far:

  • After reading article after article about hospital-acquired infection rates, it’s common to become super vigilant about handwashing whenever you’re in a healthcare facility.
  • You may feel like you’ve earned an honorary medical degree after working closely with clinicians, absorbing technical details of new scientific research or medical devices.
  • It’s good to be critical of peer-reviewed, published research, but it often holds immense value.
  • You’ll likely find yourself reading healthcare trades…for fun.
  • Images of non-healing and infected wounds can impact how much lunch you hold down.
  • You can never double-check a press release embargo lift time too many times.
  • Reliable data and personal experiences, especially from client customers, are critical to any campaign’s success.
  • Outside the office, friends generally aren’t interested in small-talk about ways hospitals can reduce costs and improve quality during happy hour… but perhaps they should be. I suspect this will become more of the norm in the future.

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