#7 Struggle of Learning In Healthcare, Part 2: Legitimacy

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.

#6 Struggle of Learning in Healthcare, Part 1: ROI

One of the most daunting things about entering healthcare is the sheer amount of work and knowledge a person needs to know. After all, your actions have a direct effect on a person’s well-being and health. Classes like Organic Chemistry, Anatomy, and a bunch of other ones are challenging and have an extreme amount of content. Along with challenging classes comes a part of entering healthcare many people don’t talk about often. That is the inability to gain experience (things like direct patient care hours) to obtain positions or even get into a school.

A company, no matter the type, hires employees with an ROI in mind. They say to themselves, “What will we get in return for our investment in this person.” The returns they are looking for include quality care, proper representation of the company name, and many others. When someone with little experience is hired to a team, their ROI is very low, sometimes even negative. This company has to use time, energy, and resources to train the employee so they can reach the level that someone with experience would have. This is why so many job applications have, “Required 1-2 years of experience”.

I am a perfect example of this. When I was 19 years old I was looking for summer EMT jobs so that I can gain experience and gain direct patient care hours. I was rejected from my local fire department and EMS because I went away from college, and I was turned down from multiple summer EMT positions for not having any experience. Currently, I am a camp EMT and have been working there for 2 years but, when I first applied for the position the director expressed concern about my lack of experience. The reason I got the job was that I was extremely personable and my letters of recommendation (one was from my EMT instructor) were outstanding. I happily accepted and was happy to just get the job. I didn’t care if I got paid or not, I just wanted to learn and gain experience.

The main thing to take away from this story is that things may not come easy to you. You WILL get rejected and questions but, that doesn’t mean you are no good. People are just not willing to take the risk sometimes (think back to ROI). In the end, my recommendation is to take what comes to you. Think of the small opportunities as ROI. You are investing your time, energy, and resources and if you are persistent your return will be more than you can imagine. So, keep dreaming and never get down because your return is right around the corner!