Actually more than 10 years if you count my time as a caregiver. I started my time in healthcare as a caregiver for my then-husband. He was injured in Iraq, suffering a gun shot to his spine making him a paraplegic. Several years after our divorce, when I was ready to return to school, I knew healthcare was my calling.
As a Physical Therapist Assistant I spent time in outpatient clinics, in hospitals, in rehab units. I have seen patients in every phase of their lives (well, maybe from teenage years on) and the physical and mental suffering that takes place in those phases. I have watched people learn to cope, grow, and thrive. But I’ve also watched them give-up, internalize, and deconstruct.
I’ve watched my co-workers too. Healthcare is a hard field. It 100% is about giving and asking for nothing in return. It doesn’t matter how bad we as caregivers are hurting, we are there to take care of someone else.
I’ve learned a lot of things along the way. Many valuable lessons, as well as many great motivating experiences. These are only a few. I try to experience a growth with each lesson. One that inspires me to do or be better, but one that my clients and patients can learn from as well.
1. Everyone thinks they are invincible.
Every patient I have had eventually says something to effect of “I never thought I’d end up here.”
It doesn’t matter if it a traumatic car accident that was truly no fault of your own, or because of a life of choices you made, we all will suffer. Experiences happen, and our bodies age. There are some things that are inevitable, if we live long enough anyway.
All we can do is our best to give our bodies a fighting chance. Health is not a natural born right. Health must be earned to be maintained. Even when we suffer an injury, recovery is dependent upon us. Not doctors, not nurses, not the government.
2. Getting healthy has nothing to do with a diet or exercising.
We think that if we could just cut out sugar, or find the perfect meal plan, we’d master this weight and health thing.
Here’s the thing, health isn’t a battle to be fought in one 30-day challenge. It’s a decision to change. A decision that you are worth it. You have to decide that you have a future to look forward to and that you will contribute to the world and other’s futures. Yes your family’s, your friend’s, your co-workers. Once you have made that decision, the other choices start to fall into place. I have watched many people make a drastic change when they realized how valuable they were and made the decision to do whatever it takes.
3. Loving what you do is key, but if it doesn’t love you back, it won’t last (and you are in danger of allowing it to become an abusive relationship).
I have watched way too many people let stress and job responsibility take them over. You don’t have to be employee of the month to make a difference. You also are not the only person responsible for an entire beast of a job.
Healthcare is tough. On the body, on the mind, on the emotions, in everyway. We see people at their worst and are more often than not severely abused in return. Our jobs, (and that includes our bosses, our upper management, our co-workers) should all be a support system. The business has to make money to keep doors open, yes, but what good is the business if the employees are broken? In my frank opinion, if you are not receiving the support you need, it’s time to leave. Find a place that gives you the support you need to continue to love what you do.
4. Everyone has a story, but that doesn’t make your story any less important.
Someone always has it worse. It’s true. But what you are feeling, what you are experiencing, it is real. I don’t care if it is a broken bone, a death in the family, or you are just having a crappy day. Your happiness and your health matters. It is not a contest. If you need help to get through this, take it! If you need a minute to feel your emotions, feel them. Do not brush them aside and power through. You may not realize it, but your body hangs on to that and manifests in other ways.
5. What happens next has nothing to do with where you were, what you’ve done, or where you are at.
There have been definite moments where I didn’t think I was worthy of happiness. That I was even worthy of a decent paying job. Who you were does not define who you can be. If you are ready for more, for better, for health, you can achieve it! The only requirement is your decision (see no. 2).
Well that was intense! These are some pretty serious lessons, but I’ve learned some fun ones too. Maybe I’ll visit those in a future post.
For now, I want to know if you have learned any of these lessons? Or maybe you have another lesson that has really resonated with you? Share in the comments!