About six months ago, after juggling multiple freelance writing gigs with an administrative job in a dialysis clinic, I left the healthcare field to begin writing full-time. Though I was leaving my clinic job for a great reason, I realized that saying goodbye to my co-workers and our patients was going to be difficult for me. After over a year of working together, I’d started to think of my fellow staff members as friends. Plus, I’d grown so protective of our patients that I knew leaving them behind was going to be really emotional for me, too. What I didn’t realize until recently, though, is just how much working in healthcare has made me a better a writer.
As anyone who has ever worked in healthcare knows, being a healthcare employee for very long at all teaches even the most timid people to be more assertive, while somehow managing to maintain a tone of polite professionalism. Additionally, the overwhelming workload that accompanies all healthcare positions makes learning how to multi-task well, prioritize, and master time-management absolutely crucial. On top of all that, since kidney failure doesn’t discriminate, working in dialysis allowed me to get to know all ages of fascinating people from different walks of life. So, while I wouldn’t trade my full-time writing gig for the world, I’m so grateful for the year I got to spend working in healthcare. Because not only did it prevent me from becoming a literal “starving artist,” it made me a better writer, too.
Here are five ways working in healthcare made me a better writer:
1. It Made Me More Empathetic
As I’m sure you already know if you’re a healthcare employee yourself, working in healthcare (especially if you work with the chronically ill) will compel you to take your empathy to a whole new level. When you work in healthcare, you don’t get to avoid the unpleasantness of chronic pain and illness, and you’re forced to acknowledge the very real financial burden that comes with being sick. Moreover, your patient’s problems become, at least in part, your problems to solve. So suffice it to say, the year I spent getting to know my clinic’s patients taught me so much about the importance of empathy. In turn, I learned how to write in a way that would express my empathy for my readers while simultaneously making it as easy as possible for my readers to empathize with me.
2. It Made Me Tougher
When I think about how insecure I was when I first started working in healthcare, I feel so grateful for all the ways working in such a fast-paced, no-nonsense field pushed me to toughen up. Because, believe it or not, being tough is almost as important for someone who wants to make a career out of writing as it is for a healthcare professional. As a writer, I’ve had to take some pretty big risks, (like moving away from everyone I know in Missouri to live with strangers in NYC) and I’ve had to deal with rejection and hateful readers, too.
Fortunately, working with stressed out doctors, overworked nurses, and some difficult patients for over a year helped me develop a thicker skin. In fact, most of the negative aspects of writing for a living (like rejection and the occasional bad review) don’t really bug me anymore. As long as my editors like my writing, I don’t stress out over the occasional negative comments on my blog posts. And if an essay of mine gets rejected at one publication, I don’t lose any sleep over it. I just send it somewhere else.
3. It Made Me a Better Communicator
Unfortunately, when I was working in healthcare, I felt like I couldn’t get any appointments made or transportation arrangements set up for my patients without being extremely assertive. Working in administrative healthcare taught me how to be assertive in a way that’s still diplomatic, and it’s a skill that’s seriously helped me become a better writer. As a healthcare employee, I learned how to communicate as clearly and directly as possible with my editors, fellow writers, and readers. It’s part of the reason why I feel comfortable with writing as openly and honestly as I do.
4. It Made Me a More Grateful Person and Encouraged Me to Take Risks
When I worked in healthcare, I spent almost every day with people whose freedom was seriously limited because of their illness. Most of my clinic’s patients weren’t able to keep a job or travel very often due to their strict dialysis schedules, and almost none of them had the luxury of living alone. Seeing how optimistic and kind they were, in spite of the time, money, and comfort that their disease cost them on a daily basis, alerted me to all the ways I’d been taking my own health for granted. Furthermore, seeing how quickly a bad diagnoses can derail someone’s life encouraged me to start pursuing writing in my free time, rather than assuming I would have the time and good health to do so in the future.
5. It Forced Me to Become More Disciplined
If you work in healthcare, you don’t need me to tell you that the fast-paced, high-stakes nature of the job makes becoming a more disciplined person pretty much mandatory. Between the mountains of paperwork, all the required employee education, and the importance of providing satisfactory patient care, not learning how to practice discipline simply isn’t an option for healthcare employees. Fortunately for me, the discipline I learned while working in healthcare helped me in my writing career, too. I had no choice but to write on my evenings and weekends off, and although it was challenging, I felt more capable than ever thanks to the discipline I gained as a healthcare employee.
In many ways, working in healthcare and working as a writer couldn’t be more different. Though both professions come with their own set of pressures and challenges, no one can deny that being a healthcare employee comes with way more responsibility and stress than being a writer ever could. That said, so many of the skills required to be an excellent healthcare employee are the same skills that have made me the writer I am today. And for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.
Do you want to learn more about how healthcare organizations, particularly ‘Best Place to Work’ organizations are building a patient-centered workforce?