Health care in the United States is constantly changing. As I write this, there are probably more changes waiting in the wings to make my job (and yours if you are considering a job in medicine) all the more challenging. Don’t get me wrong–it has its fantastic moments. For starters, the pay is almost always better than other fields that you could choose and job security is never an issue. There will always be patients and they will always need care–whether that is in the hospital, a clinic, or in their own home.
If you are anything like me, you are motivated by the desire to serve and make a difference in your patients’ lives. I have always thrived on the appreciative words of a patient’s family, relieving pain and making patients more comfortable.
Unfortunately, this dream is slowly dying for anyone who enters the field with an “I want to make a difference” attitude. What’s the reality? The reality is that medicine is now ruled by insurance companies, case managers, and money. Time after time, I have seen rules and regulations take over and the true needs of the patient get pushed to the back so that the bottom line is met. For example, there are occasions when newborns are simply too sick or require treatments that extend beyond their normal hospital admission time. Even if its just a day or two, mothers must leave without their new family members because insurance companies will not authorize mom to stay in the room–even if she isn’t getting any care from the nurses.
High patient loads and excessive documentation have made my job more about meeting the needs of a computer and less about the needs of the human being in my care. Are your medications given within the proper window? Have you documented pain and reassessed? Have you completed their skin break down score? While all of this information is important to care, medical professionals should be afforded the time to actually be able to turn patients regularly, keep personal hygiene at it’s best and help feed those that cannot do it for themselves.
Giving good care should be happening more in real life and less on a computer screen. No matter what career you choose in medicine, be prepared for many challenges. As well as many rewards. There will be good days when you feel like you have made a difference, and there will be bad days when you wonder if anyone ever appreciates what you do (including the doctors) or if they notice your work at all. But I suppose its that way with any job. To me, medicine isn’t a job–it’s who you are inside. I have met some fantastic care givers who were very intelligent, but lacked all bedside manner. Patients can feel this–and it makes a difference to them. They trust you to be your best, your most trustworthy self. So remember that before you sign up “just for the money”, it will show through in your work and how you care for your patients.
Rachel Ballard, RNC, BSN is a registered nurse with almost a decade of clinical experience in both acute care and public health settings.