“Don’t take it personally.”
Health care is full of volatile emotions. Frontline staff deal with upset patients every day. Sometimes colleagues do or say things that can send your heart pumping and your mind racing—it’s hard not to take it personally.
When I was younger, I didn’t manage my emotions well. I would shut down and be quiet. I would stew. Or, raise my voice and get upset. But I’ve learned that doesn’t work. It hurts me and it doesn’t resolve anything.
Now, I take a step back and evaluate. When I have an upset employee who is shaken by an experience, I talk through things with them and listen to them. I encourage them to take a break and get some fresh air.
Consider that you don’t know what people are going through—don’t take it personally.
“Always make a list of the things you need to do tomorrow.”
This is very simple advice I learned in high school while working at a day care. There were these steno notebooks that we had to write our list of “to do’s” in each afternoon before we left so the next person knew exactly where to begin the next day.
Later on, when I was in the military, it was always uncertain when I would be deployed—my life might be on hold. Continuing to keep these “to do” lists gave me a starting point to pick up where I left off.
I now keep it in my OneNote—not great for the next person—but for managing my own work it’s been extremely helpful. A lot of days I simply copy what I didn’t accomplish over and start again tomorrow. It allows me to know where to begin every day.
“Find not just a mentor, but mentors—and understand how to be a good mentee.”
Building connection with a mentor was early and great advice. Even better advice was defining what it means to be a mentee.
Mentorship is not about the mentor pushing you along. It’s about you as the mentee soliciting advice, driving the conversation, and scheduling follow-up.
When I’ve followed this advice, it has been extremely helpful and productive. When I’ve failed, I have missed out on opportunities or made avoidable mistakes.
The best mentorships have been one-on-one relationships with someone I connect with personally—people who were able to offer advice from a place of understanding. They’ve been where I am and understand what I’m going through. For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean physician to physician. Academia is an amazing place, and there are so many disciplines that play a direct role in this work. It’s easy and recommended to connect with people outside of your discipline.
“When in doubt… ask questions.”
In my own life, and observing others, I’ve noticed lashing out, going silent, or talking about others are common, reactionary ways of dealing with doubt.
Everyone experiences times when they are uncomfortable, they don’t know what to do, or why something is happening. Rather than react or ignore—seek clarification, seek understanding, seek confirmation, and seek validation. Simply ask questions.
Asking questions calms the situation, helps us listen, and is an essential part of open communication.
“Find someone who shares your values and work for them.”
This one is about culture. Make sure that whoever you work for and with is the right person for whatever your goals and values are. Maybe that’s an employer or boss whose values match yours, maybe it’s following a leader whose vision excites you.
Another great piece of advice I was given early is “take care of yourself.” This fits into the value sharing advice, too. Create space to exercise, unplug from work, focus on your health and nutrition.
“Seek to understand.”
While every communication poses the opportunity to approach the situation with an open mind, sometimes I succumb to assumptions. Assumptions hinder our ability to understand. Every time that I find myself making assumptions, I gently remind myself to seek to understand more. I do this by asking questions to further understand others’ perspectives. It helps keep the communication channels open.
“Find work that feeds you intrinsically.”
I’ve been given different advice at different points in my career. Most recently, the advice I found most impactful was really a series of questions with a purpose: What kind of work do you want to do? What feeds you intrinsically? Focus on the answers to those questions as a beacon to advocate for meaningful work.
At this point in my life I feel recharged. I have a deep and meaningful connection to my work. It has brought change and opportunities to do and try new things. This work feeds me intrinsically.