Hospice professionals have the heart of an amateur

Most of us who work in medicine refer to ourselves as professionals and for good reason. Years of education, training, and experience make you the clinician you are. Hospice professionals in particular require a very special set of skills to care for patients and families. You are truly professional in caring for the whole person.

When it comes to sports there is a clear line of distinction between professionals and everyone else. The professional level in any sport is something only a select few ever attain. The official term for those who never reach the professional level is amateur. Unfortunately, there is a widespread misunderstanding of exactly what the word amateur means.

Most people associate the word with a lack of skill or a beginner; someone who’s not good enough to be called professional. But consider the true primary definition of the word amateur:

A person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.

The biggest difference between an amateur and a professional lies in the heart. The amateur plays the game because of the love he has for it. He does so without the expectation or motivation of payment. The heart of an amateur drives him to be better, improve his skill level, or increase his knowledge because he simply love doing so. It is said that Bobby Jones, the famous golfer who still holds the record for winning all four major tournaments in a single year, refused to turn professional for this very reason. His love for the game had nothing to do with money.

The heart of an amateur can of course be present in a professional. I believe this to be the case with hospice professionals. Everyday you care for patients and their families with great passion. You relentlessly pursue a quality of life for your patients with the heart of an amateur, and that is a great thing. The vast majority of the time hospice professionals are paid and by no means am I advocating it should be otherwise. My hope is simply that you never get so wrapped up with being a hospice professional that you lose the heart of an amateur.

As with any great passion, sport or otherwise, there are elements of hospice work that are tedious, frustrating, and exhausting. The professional would rather avoid these less enjoyable parts of hospice care but the amateur knows they are part of what drives her love for what she does. Not because of the exhaustion or frustration itself but because of the end result of a comfortable patient or a peaceful family. Professionals who possess the heart of an amateur love what they do because they simply have a passion for it that can’t be quenched by occasional frustration or exhaustion.

As the hospice profession continues to mature in skills and knowledge, one thing remains sure. This very special area of care, of which we call ourselves professionals, will always require a strong passion and love for what we do. Always strive for the excellence of professionalism but never do so without the heart of an amateur.

Andy Milligan is President and CEO, Solaris Healthcare.

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