Dear Me with a New Degree—
Congratulations! This has been a long road of late nights, tough clinicals and lots of tests. The State of Missouri says you are ready to practice, even though I know you feel a little bit uncertain. The truth is, you will never feel like you know everything, even ten or fifteen years later, so it’s okay to just go with what you know and trust your gut. Trusting your gut will be very important, so pay attention to that feeling. You will find yourself questioning protocols, procedures and policies. Never put one of those above what you know to be good patient care. Ask for clarifications and don’t be afraid to speak up. Seniority and authority should be respected, but your instinct is what will make you great in this setting.
Get to know your co-workers. Not just the nurses, therapists and doctors you interact with, but everyone in your facility. Chat with the housekeepers, learn the names of the food server’s kids, and talk sports with the maintenance guy who fixes the light above your desk. Everyone in your facility plays a very important role, not just the front line medical staff. When you take the time to interact with people, you can give your patients the best care by knowing exactly who to turn to when there is a need. And you will learn that you are just a small cog in the big machine, and humility is a good thing.
Be nice, but don’t be a pushover. Listen to your colleagues. Learn from their training, and be willing to accept that many times there is more than one way to successfully treat a patient. You will work with some brilliant people who will change the way you practice your craft. However, remember that you are there to be the expert in your field. You might not have the same knowledge base as other professionals you are working with, but you have training and experience that is vital. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion when it’s appropriate, to speak up for the patient if you have questions about treatment plans or to take your concerns to management if you truly feel they are warranted.
Surround yourself with positive, happy people. It’s easy to get sucked into facility soap operas, and there will be drama whether you work with 6 people or 6,000. You cannot be dragged down and lifted up at the same time, so choose wisely. And if you can’t find anyone positive to associate with, perhaps it’s time to find new co-workers. It is not your responsibility to provide the “happy” for your team, just the “happy” for you, and if you are always trying to fight negativity you will start to get resentful and tired.
Find mentors you respect, and not just mentors in your same field. Ask to shadow them, take them to lunch, pick their brains for what keeps them motivated and makes them tick. If you want to grow as a practitioner, you need to align yourself with people that will challenge you and cheer you on. And if you can’t find a single person in your facility that you respect and admire to be a mentor…leave. Your professional growth is ultimately your responsibility, not your facility’s. Every moment you are not growing, learning, and improving is a moment wasted.
Celebrate the little successes. You will have lots of “firsts” in the next few years, some good—the first time a patient tells you that you made a difference in her life, and some not so good—the first time you realize you have someone else’s bodily fluids on your scrubs. Each one is an experience to remember. Your professional life will be filled with little moments that shape you as a provider. Cherish all of them.
Most of all, don’t lose your passion. You are going into your chosen profession, ready to make your patients and your professional community better. The best providers still feel this way 10 years later, even 30 years later. You were born to do this. There is a whole world waiting for you to change it. Get after it.
Love and Good Luck,
The More Experienced, Wiser, Just as Passionate Me
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