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Working in the medical field is such a strange job. When you really sit down and think about it, medical providers have to be a jack of all trades. At the same time, they must be an expert in the area they choose to work. Looking out into the workforce, there are very few careers like it. When you feel drawn to work in healthcare, it can become all consuming. It’s like a shiny new toy sitting under the Christmas tree. You okay with that toy everyday for about a month or two. Then after the month is up, you don’t pick up the toy again. This is the case for some people in healthcare. But, for some they’ve found the trick to longevity.
The trick to continuing to pick up that toy and to continue playing with it for years, is to constantly be curious. Look at the toy as a whole, not on a granular level. If you choose to look too closely too fast, you will miss the chip in the paint, the loose button or the broken sound effect. Healthcare is not much different. Working in the medical field teaches you how to experience patients as a whole. When you begin to look at them too granularly, you don’t see the full picture. You may miss the full prescription bottles sitting on the nightstand. Or the lack of food in their fridge. Providers see patients on what could be their worst day. It is easy to forget to a moment and think about the effect their situation may have on their mental health.
The most valuable lesson to be taken away from those experiences is to provide compassion and comfort. Look at the big picture; while also treating the symptoms at hand. For providers with passion, the toy never becomes less shiny. It becomes something you strive to improve upon. You go to the store and find the right paint color, the string needed to sew up the button, and we bring it to a hobby store to have the sound effect fixed.
In order to go back to the store year after year, it is imperative to nurture your mental health. Medical providers, as strong as they are, are still human. In one shift they may see a child in the PICU take their last breath. They may see a 26 year old shot with gun shot wounds hanging on to the last moments of life. They may also see someone come into the world. And an elderly patient come back to life in front of their eyes. But, unfortunately the bad can out-way the good; for some more than others. Despite this, mental health resources are oftentimes not provided. And when they are, providers do not gravitate towards seeking help.
As a medical provider, you are hardwired to help people even if that means leaving yourself behind. In a perfect world, incorporating mental health check-ins once a week or at the end of each shift would be the perfect answer. But the truth is, the only way to go about fixing the broken system is honesty. This means we need to be honest when asked “how are you?” by a colleague, employee, or supervisor. Day in and day out you ask your patients to be honest with you. Why? Because when they are, providers can help them in an effective and timely manner. It’s time the medical field starts to incorporate honesty around mental health in an effort to combat this epidemic.
It isn’t until providers begin to share our struggles and triumphs that a real change can be made. The toy may not look the same as it did under the Christmas tree, but it still functions. All thanks to the time you take to maintain it.
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