While learning there are two types of struggles, content and mental. Content consists of knowing accurate information, and practicing skills. Content struggle usually takes place in academia but, often happens outside of it as well. The second type of struggle is mental. Mental struggle is facing and battling outside factors you have no control over. These consist of a personal hardship or any opposing factor you cannot control. In healthcare, we already talked about learning and gaining experience, the content part (Blog #6). Now we will talk about the forgotten area, the part that everyone leaves out, the mental game. Specifically, legitimacy and gaining respect from patients, coworkers, and regular strangers.
You can search and find countless stories of healthcare students having poor experiences during classes and rotation hours because of many mental struggles. A lot of these, unfortunately, happen during rotation hours when trying to gain experience. People do not take you seriously and immediately shut down the hard work and dedication you put in to be in front of them. These moments can break people into pieces. Knowing you are good enough, but then being told you aren’t from someone else. This little interaction can be as crushing as an elephant holding you down, and the reality of it is that a lot of people cannot take this stress. People will become frustrated and upset. But, it’s about how you react. Do you react with anger and frustration? Or do you react with understanding and care? Reacting with understanding and care will lift that elephant off of you and allow you to continue on your journey. But, if you react with anger and frustration that elephant will only lean and put more weight onto you until you can’t go any further. You will be stuck, stuck in a place of anger and frustration. For reasons like this, a mental hardship can be more difficult than any class you will ever take.
As I have said before, I struggled heavily with finding experience. I couldn’t find the person that would take me seriously and hire me for a position, but when I did I was extremely nervous. I wasn’t nervous about taking care of over 400 kids. I was nervous about the parent’s and counselor’s reactions to having a 19-year-old in charge of first aid and medical requirements. I can still remember people asking, “what group are you with?” only to reply with “I am the camp EMT, here are your kids epi-pens.” They all had the same look on their face, astonished and curious. Curious at how someone so young can be responsible for something so important. I don’t blame them either, it is a hard thing to take in.
The people that accepted me immediately grew very fond of me. They were inspired to do more at a young age and not scared of dreaming big. I would often give advice and explain the things I did to get into the position I am in today. For the people that didn’t accept me, it was a constant battle. A battle of trying to earn their respect. I wasn’t trying to earn their respect for my own gratification. I was trying to earn it in case an emergency occurred. I wanted all people to feel comfortable coming to me no matter the problem, even if it wasn’t medical-related. These people would often question my position and my ability to do it. I have heard everything from, “You aren’t a doctor, why would I come to you” and “Your license means nothing. I can do what you do.” I will admit that a lot of these comments hit me deep. They made me frustrated and feel minuscule. But, I never got mad at them. I never got mad because they don’t understand the struggle. They don’t understand that I one day wish to become a Physicians Assistant, but that takes time and time isn’t something I can speed up. Instead, I dealt with it and tried to just be personal with them. A lot of those people ended up coming to me throughout the summer, some with serious medical emergencies and now I have earned their respect. Just like it takes time to become a Physicians Assistant, it takes time for people to trust and respect you. So, as long as you are patients and understanding, the mental struggles of learning in healthcare will be challenging but not impossible.