Toughening up: how new medical professionals cope on the front line
Doctors and nurses meet people at some of the worst moments of their lives. It’s fair to say that when dealing with people who are ill, in pain, and frightened or worried about a family member, you are probably not meeting them at their best. In the fast-paced atmosphere of a hospital, you witness tragedy as well as success, and while you will meet many grateful patients, there may be others who criticize or a family member who blames. Over time, doctors and nurses develop a thick skin, but for those new to medical professions, this can be a shock, and for the sake of their own mental wellbeing, they need to toughen up.
Learn to detach
Detaching from the emotions of a medical setting can be hard as doctors and nurses are often drawn to the profession simply because they are caring people. In a confrontational situation, whether with patients or staff, do not feel that you have to respond immediately as this can easily inflame a situation, making you more emotional. Take a pause, perhaps by using a stock reply, such as “Can you repeat that?” or “Excuse me?” to give you time to think of a response, rather than instantly replying with something that may be over-emotional. If you know that you are about to face a tricky situation, it is worth preparing your response in advance.
Don’t let criticism, mistakes or bad outcomes linger in your mind as these can easily add up until you feel that you can no longer cope with the profession. Have a trusted colleague as someone you can offload to, and then draw a line under whatever has occurred.
Plan your breaks
Whether it’s a quick break in the middle of work or your time off, plan something that will take your mind away from work. A non-work-related chat with a colleague, a sport or hobby, or a TV show you enjoy can let your mind detach from work, making it easier to forget anything negative that occurred and allow work events to remain solely in your professional life, without intruding on your personal life.
Know your own worth
It’s easy to allow the one bad outcome to dominate your mind, even though throughout your day, there will likely have been many positives. At the end of a shift, take a moment to focus on the many actions both small and large that have made a real difference to your patients.
You should also keep in mind your goals for the future, with a plan for further training to advance your career as both nurses and doctors are in demand throughout the country. If there is no obvious place of study near you, online courses are just as rigorous as their in-person counterparts. A good example is Wilkes University, which includes an MSN that will allow a new nurse to progress from RN to NP with convenient online study and clinical placements.
You are not alone
While new medical professionals will gradually toughen up, even the most experienced medical professional has occasional situations they can’t deal with. Do not hesitate to ask for help from senior colleagues or even security if the situation demands it.