The health care environment you are about to enter is very different from the one that existed when you entered school. The COVID pandemic has changed us all, but we, the health care providers, have taken one of the biggest hits.
We are exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally. Even before the pandemic, we were often short-staffed and now those of us that are left are thankful for any staff, and two days off a week seems like a vacation (when you can get it). The influx of information regarding the efficacy of treatments and prevention has been difficult to decipher and sift through. And despite doing the best we can with what we have, many patients choose alternate treatments or prevention.
Their right to choose is one of the foundations of our great nation, so we must all respect our patients’ rights. But beware, when their choice is not going well, many come to us for help. Some will admit they are not doing well and submit to recommended treatment. Many will admit no such thing and demand you treat them according to their plan, which is often not possible. Most health care systems simply do not make available treatments not approved by the CDC or WHO. The verbal and sometimes physical abuse that follows, again is exhausting.
We have seen more of our patients and colleagues die from one illness in the last two years than in all our other professional years combined. This combination has led to many leaving health care. Resources have been depleted, and priorities shifted.
You should be welcomed with open arms. However, there will not be as many good mentors available. So remember you don’t have to know everything, but you need to know where you can find it. Medications and recommendations are ever-changing, Check and recheck your references. Phone a friend (you have my number). Have a plan. When your shift is over, give yourself a limited amount of time to decompress, talk about it, cry, get angry, whatever. Then make like Elsa in Frozen and let it go.
One of my favorite memories of my late husband (he died from COVID just before the vaccines became available) is when I’d call him from work when I was having a tough day. He’d patiently listen to my vent or whine (depending on the day), then his response was always the same. “Don’t let them steal your joy, baby,” and after a dramatic pause, he’d add, “the sons of bitches.” That always helped me refocus and laugh. That is always good advice.
When it comes to dealing with your patients (people in general), Mother Teresa put it best in her Anyway speech:
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God. It was never between you and them anyway.
If that’s too much to remember, here’s a fallback by Billy Currington: “God is Great, beer is good / People are crazy.”
Tammy Baxter is a nurse practitioner.
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