Grace Mitchell

Submitted 2023-08-21

Healthcare providers are a part of the backbone of the communities they serve. They are there to care for those in need. Though the work that healthcare providers do is highly rewarding, it also strains healthcare providers mentally and physically. As an emergency medical technician (EMT), I often experience this and have developed healthy ways to prepare and navigate the mental and physical obstacles that are a part of this field. Creating a strong support system, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, and engaging in hobbies are necessary to a healthy and successful career in healthcare.

Despite most people knowing at least one healthcare provider on a personal level, the general public remains unaware of the many resources and skills that go into caring for others. Even close family members and friends often struggle to understand certain aspects of working in healthcare. For example, EMTs and paramedics frequently come home at time much later than they had planned. This is usually due to last-minute calls and needing to finish patient care reports. During the beginning of their careers, families may not understand why their EMT/paramedic was late. Family may not understand that their EMT/paramedic needed to complete specific tasks prior to going off duty. It is important that providers explain to their family and friends that they do not willingly choose to come home late and miss family events. After explaining this to them, they will become more understanding. Educating close friends and family about providers’ full roles and responsibilities as healthcare better helps them understand the challenges providers face and enables them to better support their healthcare provider.

In addition to family and friends, building strong and healthy relationships with peers and others in healthcare further strengthens our support system. Fellow providers know the challenges of healthcare because they often face the same ones. A good example of this is building great relationships with several other EMS providers in one’s jurisdiction. They can relate to issues experienced on the local, regional, and national level. Peers are also able to listen to their fellow provider as they also undergo the same experiences, which often involve physical and emotional trauma. Although family and friends may offer safe spaces to talk about the things providers encounter, many may not be willing or able to listen to our experiences due to their traumatic and graphic nature. Peers are typically more open to hearing providers share their experiences and can offer valuable support since they are familiar with the nature of the healthcare field.

Outside of social support, healthcare providers can take several steps to create a healthy environment for themselves. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is important for not only our physical health, but also our mental health. Each meal should have a variety of protein, vegetables, and grains, while remaining low in saturated fats, sugar, and cholesterol. Eating well balanced meals provides healthcare providers with the appropriate nutrients to perform their jobs. Although quick and easy food such as fast food may be more appealing, their high levels of sugar, saturated fats, and cholesterol will make healthcare providers feel sluggish, tired, and fatigued. In addition to these negative short-term effects, frequently eating this type of food will increase the likelihood of developing long-term conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Though these conditions may not develop until later in life, healthcare providers should work to prevent development of these conditions so that they can enjoy a long and healthy retirement.

Paired with healthy eating habits, regular exercise is essential to a long and healthy career in healthcare and beyond. Many mistaken healthcare as being a non-physical job. Healthcare is very much a physical job regardless of one’s specific role. Those in a pre-hospital setting such as EMTs and paramedics, often have to lift, carry, and assist patients in a variety of situations. In-hospital providers such as certified nursing assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical/occupational therapists, and many other providers often have to move patients in the hospital. Whether it is transferring patients between beds, assisting them with daily activities, or positioning them to perform care, everyone in healthcare will move patients several times throughout their career. Therefore, healthcare providers need to exercise regularly to be able to move patients safely and effectively. Back injuries are very common in healthcare providers and result from poor physical health.

Lastly, engaging in hobbies is imperative in maintaining a healthy mind. Making time to participate in hobbies helps maintain a healthy work-life balance and can be an emotional outlet. Healthcare providers are known to be ambitious people dedicated to their roles. However, some healthcare providers allow their work to consume their life. Eventually this leads to burnout and has major negative impacts on the provider’s mental and physical health. Hobbies allow providers to engage in other interests and gives them a break from the high-stress and rigorous environment of their careers. Hobbies can also provide an emotional outlet. Some providers find that writing, painting, and other creative forms help them cope with the mental and emotional stress and trauma they experience as part of their job.

By establishing a support system, healthy lifestyle habits, and engaging in hobbies, healthcare providers can not only maintain their mental and physical health, but it also prepares them to navigate any challenges and stress they may face. Knowing that they have people they can talk to reduces stress following a traumatic experience because providers know they will not have to deal with it alone. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle makes providers more resilient. Hobbies allow them to focus on something unrelated to the career they dedicate so much time and effort to. Following these steps as a pre-health student creates a strong foundation for a long and healthy career.