I often contemplate the modern-day healthcare environment. On those particularly exhausting days, I look back at the day and think to myself “the human mind and body were not made to deal with seeing 40 sick patients in one day.” This equates out to thousands of patients a year… very unnatural…
The modern healthcare system has turned patient care into a conveyor belt type system. We must see the patient after the patient to keep the doors open. Well, this is what we are told, the fact is we are lining the pockets of the pointless administrators and managers but that is another topic in itself. The point is, we are forced to see 4-6 patients an hour in most insurance accepting general medicine type practices. This is how we generate revenue. It has very little to do with patient care anymore but has everything to do with the numbers.
Patient care used to be an intimate experience with the patient. The provider would spend 30-60 minutes with the patient. They would see 8 patients a day. You left refreshed and satisfied with your work. You felt like you made an impactful difference in your patients lives and yet still had energy to enjoy the rest of your day (cooking dinner, gardening, going for a nice evening walk, etc.).
This is a rarity these days with most medical specialties. We are forced to see as many patients as possible due to patient demand and healthcare economics. You leave work completely exhausted, mentally and physically… You literally become burnt out. You know why this happens? BECAUSE IT IS UNNATURAL.
We are fighting against nature here. The human mind and body were not made to handle the stresses and workload that modern healthcare throws at us. There is nothing natural about seeing 40 complaining and sick individuals’ day in and day out. Hell, it is not even natural to see 40 HEALTHY people in a day.
For most of human history, humans were confined to small regional areas, villages, and towns. You had close contact with just a handful of people most days. Yes, you had to deal with the intermittent fear of sickness, starvation, and even death, but I suspect people were generally less stressed than what they are today. There was no “doctor” 500 years ago seeing 40 sick patients on a daily basis 5 days a week. If they did, they would have seen every single person in the county! Very few people ever saw a thousand people in their entire lifetime even!
Today, we must deal with the constant demand, increased liabilities (both civil and even criminal), increased workload, and overall stress. People are generally MORE stressed today than they have ever been (this is not a blanket statement, but a generalization. Times were tough during plague or when Vikings were raiding your village). This is even more so with individuals in healthcare.
I enjoyed people more before I entered healthcare. I was the “life of the party” and had groups of friends. I loved chatting with strangers walking down the street and in stores. Then I started working as an RN. I became burnt out on “peopling” from work. Hour after hour of hearing people complain about how they felt, their illnesses, etc. It took a toll on my mental well-being. I looked around at my coworkers and just saw the “burnt out” in them. It did not matter what field you were in, MD/DO/PA/RN/RT/PT, most of my coworkers were more on the cynical side and just looked tired… They were burnt out.
I thought this would improve as a nurse practitioner, but it actually worsened when I started working in busy urgent cares and emergency departments. I was seeing MORE people than I was being a registered nurse. I would routinely see 40-60 patients daily in the urgent care I was working at. There were shifts in the emergency department where I would see 30 SICK people. If this were just one day a week, I would have been perfectly fine, but the problem was that this was multiple days a week over long shifts. I was becoming “peopled” out from work. On my days off, I wanted to just be by myself.
This unnatural cycle just compounded itself. I was seeing unnatural amounts of misery, complaining, sick individuals, and just people in general on a daily basis. Then I would unnaturally become a recluse (to an extent) on my days off. Was I depressed? I did not feel depressed… I just felt tired and exhausted with people.
With introspection and the help of a bottle of wine around a campfire one night, I realized that the problem wasn’t with me, but it was with the unnatural line of work I was in. Was it my profession? Not necessarily, but it was the system I worked in. The human mind and soul were not created (or evolved) to listen to constant complaining and witnessing misery on a daily basis.
This triggers an “apathy switch” within our mind. This is a defensive mechanism to shield us from what we are witnessing and experiencing. If this “apathy switch” was not turned on, then you would become so enveloped within this misery, you would eventually crack under the pressure. I have seen this as well and these individuals do not last long term (usually).
The problem is that this apathy carries over into other parts of your life. It almost must because by the end of the weekend, you are right back into the grind again. You are right back living an unnatural existence.
Regardless of how or why this happens, I knew what I had to change. I knew I had to get out of the modern healthcare system. I had to break free from these chains of mental slavery. I could not continue working in these unnatural conditions for 20+ years until retirement. This was not living…
This is when I decided to take that step into entrepreneurship.
I would interact with business owners and people that were not in healthcare and I would see just how much different their outlook on life were. They had a different demeanor. A demeanor that I used to have… It was something I missed and deep down, my soul wanted to go back to nature. To enter back into a natural state. I gave a middle finger to the “security” of full-time employment and pursued the “uncertainty” of entrepreneurship.
I was fearful, but in an excited way. This weight lifted off my shoulders when I started my first business. More weight was lifted once I went part-time at my urgent care position to pursue my own businesses. I began to transition back into this natural state. I started to enjoy people again…. It was the best decision I ever made.
I started to see the positive more vs. being forced to see nothing but negative, negative, and more negative hour after hour within the factory of modern healthcare…
It was exactly what my soul, mind and body needed…
I know there are other nurse practitioners reading this shaking their head in agreement. Many of you feel the same way I did. I am sure some of you don’t either, good for you, I envy you… But this is a very unnatural existence for most people. We are not designed to endure what healthcare has become. If you are a nurse practitioner reading this article and this message resonates with you, there is a way to break free. You have 3 options:
- Find a job that is laid back within healthcare (I am thinking like cushy health department type jobs).
- Find another profession.
- Embrace the entrepreneur lifestyle.
The cushy nurse practitioner jobs are hard to come by, and for good reason. The people who work these jobs never give them up until they retire or die. So good luck finding one. If you have one, good for you. Enjoy the easier work compared to private/corporate type insurance accepting practices. Ride that gravy train until it crashes.
Finding another profession is unrealistic for many of us. As you enter your late thirties, switching professions becomes increasingly difficult. If you are only in your mid-twenties, you still have plenty of time to switch careers, but most of us do not have that luxury.
Starting your own business is the most practical way to break free in my opinion. Follow The Elite NP Model, it is designed to help you break free. Drop down to part-time work and start a niche side practice. You can make a very good living with a high priced/low volume practice. Do you know what the best part is too? You can actually spend time with your patients and do what you were trained to do: truly take care of people. You can also have time to spend time on yourself outside of work. A much-needed thing these days…
For the nurse practitioners out there reading this who are stuck in that “funk,” go to the store, buy a bottle of wine, make that campfire, and do some personal introspection about your career and life. I promise you will find the underlying problem. I suspect a portion of it will be the unnatural existence that has been forced upon you by modern day healthcare. Take comfort in knowing that you, and only you, can go back to a more natural state. All it takes is some planning, hard work, and a little risk. I did it, and so have many others…
Now go… please… go… go get that bottle of wine and take a night for you.