This post is for medical professionals of all kinds. Whether you’re in a clinical or clerical position, medical office or pharmacy – this is for you.
Working in this field is difficult and if you’re doing it or plan to for any reason other than wanting to help people, you’re going to get burnt out faster than most. There’s not a lot of money in it if you’re an honest person and there’s very little appreciation across the board.
To Current Medical Professionals
I know that this field can become maddening. I understand completely the fact that after you’ve put everything out there and get nothing but mistreatment in return, it will take its toll on you. Burn out is such a common occurrence in this field and I’ve experienced it, myself.
After working in patient-facing positions for seven years, I became burned out. I couldn’t handle the constant barrage of anger and frustration being taken out on me. Sure, there were wonderful patients who appreciated me, but they were few and far between. Making only slightly more than minimum wage, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. That’s when I decided to take a job as a medical records custodian just to get a break.
I will fully admit that I am not perfect. Although I try desperately to treat every patient – abusive or not – like I would want my family members to be treated, it’s hard sometimes. I have become frustrated and taken that frustration out on patients or coworkers. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. I’m not perfect and I’ve lost my empathy a few times over the last decade. Each time I am haunted by how I’ve affected the patient I snapped at.
However, although I may have been tested, that empathy never went away. And that’s important. I know that the majority of people who join this field do so because they want to help others. I know that most of us are empathetic and that we try very hard. But I also know that after a while we can be worn down and our hearts become hardened to the plight of others. The problem is how we deal with it.
If you’ve become burned out and you’ve lost your empathy, please take a step back and see how that’s affecting not only yourself, but your patients, as well. If you’ve found yourself absolutely miserable and see that the misery is seeping out into your treatment of patients, please do something about it.
There is already so much distrust of our field and when burned out professionals take it out on patients, it just makes it so much worse. I am not saying that you should change fields or lose your job, but just try to find a way to get back to where you were when you first began. When your empathy drove your words and actions and you could see past someone’s attitude to the cause of it.
To Aspiring Medical Professionals
You’re going to be dealing with people in their worst moments. When they’re sick, mentally unstable and frustrated. You’ll be dealing with people who have no clue what it means to be in this field because the only time they think about you is when they need something from you. Some patients will be wonderful, and you will love them for their sincerity and kindness. Some will be confused and desperate and others still will accuse, blame and threaten you when they don’t get what they think they should.
In the decade that I have been doing this, I’ve been cussed out much more than I’ve been thanked. I don’t make enough to cover the student loan I had to take out to become a medical assistant, and I’m not alone. There’s a reason why burn out is a pretty common occurrence in this field.
I got into this because I wanted to help people and I try to do that every day. If you can’t be kind and empathize with others, please do not join this field. If you can’t treat every patient – even the ones who are cussing you out – like you would want your family to be treated, this isn’t the field for you.
If you can’t look past a person’s illness and into the cause of it, you won’t last. For example, if your first response to an addict is to scoff and write them off as a POS instead of trying to understand why they became addicted in the first place, you will do more harm than good.
If you are in this field and you lack empathy or compassion, you and the patients you treat will suffer for it. If you can’t handle dealing with sick, angry and desperate people, you will hate your job – no matter what it is.
Yes, patients need to be more aware of how they treat us and abuse is unacceptable no matter what. There is no excuse for it. I’m not trying to let patients off the hook. What I am saying is that, unfortunately, this field isn’t all happiness and satisfaction.
So please, heed these words and really think about why you’re doing this and what you want out of it.
If you want praise and riches, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
If, however, you are empathetic, compassionate and want to help people no matter their illness or situation, you are desperately needed.