I’ve been working for two decades in nutrition and dietetics in healthcare organizations, and it’s my belief that if you choose a job in healthcare, you are choosing to make a difference in people’s lives every single day.
It’s exhilarating work, but often under difficult circumstances. But that’s what gives the work so much purpose.
In one of my first jobs as a dietetic technician, I was hooked the moment I made a patient’s day just a little bit better. I was helping a 26-year-old man suffering from skin cancer who wasn’t getting enough to eat because his medications made food taste bitter. Working with his young wife, we found some foods and flavors he liked that offset any bitter taste during his struggle. Unfortunately, he eventually passed away, but his wife let me know our efforts made a difference.
As I became a registered dietitian and took on more responsibilities, my commitment for patients and their caregivers grew. But make no mistake, the demands on healthcare providers can sometimes blur even the most dedicated professionals. I know because it happened to me.
Approximately 10 years ago, I was working with a patient in the intensive care unit who was in a coma following a car accident. Her head was shaved, there were tubes pumping fluids everywhere and no one was allowed to see her. Because of the coma and the inability to communicate with her, it was easy to forget there was a person there who had a family and a life.
But as her situation improved, she was allowed to receive cards. Soon there appeared a picture from her three-year-old that read “Mommy, I miss you, come home.”
I had a three-year-old son at that time, and when I saw the picture, I started to cry. I couldn’t imagine the little girl’s loss and I shared my grief with the hospital’s nurses and physicians. That moment was an inflection point for me; it changed the way I look at every single patient for the rest of my career.
Healthcare professionals rely on science to help us heal patients. But sometimes we get lost in the endless number of calculations, diagnoses, medications, lab work and exams. We need to remember that connecting with patients and their caregivers gives us that greater sense of purpose and the deep satisfaction of making a significant and lasting impact in someone’s life.
Another benefit of working in healthcare is that other dedicated people are always nearby. Working with other healthcare professionals can bolster the purpose of our work. These relationships are essential because they can lead to important conversations about the human side of healthcare, and healthcare team members can debrief and learn together from challenging situations. A framework of compassionate care can lead to collaboration that improves the quality of care while enriching the patient and family experience.
For those considering a healthcare career, it may be surprising to learn that there are non-medical skills that can help a person thrive.
Just about everyone in healthcare, including those seeking careers as registered dietitian nutritionists, should work to develop communication skills. These skills will then be tested, refined, and strengthened through patient and client interactions in a variety of settings. And in a country that is so diverse, effective communication can help your career and your patients.
Here’s a good example. One of my aunt’s was recently treated for cancer and my father accompanied her to all of her appointments. But they had difficulty understanding all of the medical terminology used by doctors and nurses caring for them, and often didn’t understand the diagnoses and treatment plan. In the meantime, she’s lost weight and had other health issues.
To remedy the situation, I drove from Utah to California, and helped the doctor communicate with them in layman’s terms. I helped the physician understand that they needed information presented in a simpler, friendlier way – one where they could understand and know what action to take.
I encourage people seeking healthcare careers to improve their communication skills, even taking classes in communications. Every profession has its own jargon, but that patients often don’t understand it. Effective communication will help you differentiate yourself from other candidates and bridge any disconnect between patients and caregiver.
Because of the constant improvements in medicine, people who are lifelong learners are good candidates for careers in healthcare. Research is published regularly and there are constant advances in new treatment techniques for medical conditions and diseases. Healthcare workers who are avid readers and seek out opportunities to learn from and collaborate with others will continuously learn new ways to help people and make a difference in their lives.
Finally, we need more people who have critical decision-making skills. In our line of work, we are presented daily with a large amount of facts to determine the course of treatment. We often have to determine which ones are relevant before determining the right foods, the best diet and the proper nutrition.
Dietitians are often presented with lab reports, a list of medications and patients with chronic diseases. Before designing a nutrition program, we need to determine if any information is missing. Does the patient have a nutrition history? A critical thinker will fit puzzle pieces together and come up with the right treatment plan.
We need more people who want to be part of a dedicated group of professionals that give others help and hope. If you’re looking for purpose, this is the right place.
Looking for meaningful work helping people? Do you want to marry your passions and serving others? Check out available team member or management opportunities to join the Compass One Healthcare and Morrison Healthcare family. We believe in the Power of Food to change lives and are proud of the opportunities we have each day to help people and serve alongside world-class clients.
Morrison is a proud part of Compass One Healthcare and Compass Group USA.
Morrison is headed to Washington D.C. with Compass Group USA. If you’re trying to grow a career in dietetics come see us a the Compass Group USA booth. We’ll be at FNCE 2018 to answer all of your questions about joining Modern Healthcare’s No. 9 Best Place to Work in Healthcare. Be sure to let us know you’re dropping in on social media. You can find us on Twitter at @MorrisonHC, Instagram at @MorrisonHealthcare, Facebook and LinkedIn.