3 life lessons you’ll learn working at a hospital

3 life lessons you’ll learn working at a hospital

Are you thinking about getting into the medical field? If you’re ready to start your career, these are the three life lessons you’ll learn working at a hospital that may change you forever. 

Every Day is a Gift 

The famous saying, life is too short, really hits home for anyone working at a hospital. Whether you’re an RN, Technician, or billing, you quickly learn that life can end in the blink of an eye. We all know it, but you don’t feel it. It doesn’t hit home until you start to see it day in and day out.

There are days where an elderly patient with a DNR will take their last breath with her family surrounding them. Entirely at peace with the world. On other days, codes are called with grim outcomes.

We see children who lose a parent to a stroke, wives who lose their husband to a heart attack, and parents who lost their children to freak accidents. Life is short, not just our own, but the lives of those who surround us. 

Innately, we learn to live life in the moment, the importance of spending time with family, telling our loved ones we love them every time we walk out the door or hang up the phone. Hugs start to mean more, and we feel them with every inch of our body.

Every day truly becomes a gift as we see others lose their loved ones right in front of their eyes. 

As time goes on, and the longer we work in a hospital, we begin to grow thicker skin. The time of deaths, last breaths, and telling the family the news all starts to become a blur.

Most of us have become numb to the patients we’ve lost, causing us to question even further the meaning of life and why we are here. If that happens, you’ll have to learn to take a step back and remember your first days. Too many medical professionals lose touch with who they were and why they stepped into the medical field in the first place. 

Always Put Yourself in Other’s Shoes 

When working in the medical field, you have to remind yourself every moment not to cast judgment or make assumptions. You’ll have patients from all walks of life, cultural backgrounds, and with different medical conditions.

We can never see pain, anxiety or post-traumatic events. It becomes normal at most, if not all, hospitals for the staff to judge a book by its cover. Especially in the emergency department. Patients get labeled as addicts, medication seekers, or get labeled as wanting a room for the night when they are homeless. Although these assumptions could ring true, it’s not your place to cast judgment or make assumptions.

If a patient records a pain scale of 10/10 what do you do? Do you choose to see all your other patients before bringing them their meds just to make them wait as long as possible?

It’s seen in the medical field across hospitals daily that nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals cast judgments and respond based on such assumptions rather than caring for the patient based on their chart. 

There’s a story of a patient who was admitted to UCSD hospital, and who quickly advanced to ICU. A telemetry technician caught that she had an abnormal rhythm and was about to code.

The Technician followed protocol and called the patients RN. When the RN didn’t immediately respond, the Charge was called, the Charge Nurse also didn’t respond quickly. A few seconds later, the Technician had to call a code; the patient was no longer breathing and was Asystole.

The patient’s nurse, the Charge, and the code team rushed in a while performing CPR the nurse stated: “we should just stop, she clearly doesn’t want to live anyways.” This statement was concerning the patents weight; she was clinically obese.

The Technician, furious at the matter asked her colleague to watch the monitors. She stepped out of the room and walked into the room where the code was being held and stated: “I heard what was said and if CPR isn’t continued this will be shared.” The Technician went back to monitoring the patients, and CPR was continued. After a few more minutes, the patient was revived and fine. Many other similar stories happen daily, most less critical. Assumptions are made and care is not provided to its potential.

As a medical professional it is your obligatory duty to not get sucked into other negative co-workers who make assumptions and cast judgement.

This will be seen in the halls, med-rooms, break rooms, nursing stations, and most prominently during shift change.

Report these matters and always remember; if you were to end up in the ER would you want a provider casting judgement on you? Take a moment, and spend a day in your patients shoes. The same goes for your co-workers. It’s easy to cast judgment when you don’t get along with someone, don’t let that person be you. 

Don’t Take Your Body for Granted 

Working in a hospital, you see things you could have never imagined in your wildest nightmares. Ten-year-old children who are addicted to heroin who lost their arm to MRSA. Women in their thirties who’ve eaten their way through their life trauma, and men in their twenties who are in liver failure.

We are taught at a young age that our bodies are a temple. As we get into our teenage years we tend to push our bodies to its limits.

Working in the medical field changes that. We become aware of the fact that we are not invisible. Our actions directly affect how long and well our bodies take care of us.

And even though we see it, and we try to do our best, most of us struggle with not picking up that doughnut the ambulance rep just dropped off. Or saying no to the cake that was brought in for a birthday.

There’s a lot of junk food that surrounds you working in a hospital. Knowing when enough and learning to not take your body for granted tends to be something that sticks with you for your lifetime. 

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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