Starving Dietitian

Introverts Guide to Healthcare

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The life of an introvert is shrouded in difficulty, at least, that’s what many introverts will tell you. Whether because they’re too shy or not a “people person” or simply because they would rather be off doing something by themselves, I’ve encountered many fellow introverts doubtful of succeeding in the healthcare field.

I mean it makes sense, someone suffering from social anxiety might not be the best suited to spend day after day interacting with patients. Or so I thought.

In  my experience there are a variety of tips and tricks you can use to set your fears aside, so I present, The Introverts Guide to Healthcare.

1. Pretend your badge gives you super powers.

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Obviously I don’t run around pretending I’m superman, lifting gurneys over my head, or x-raying through a patients wounds. I do use it as a reminder to the authority it gives, that I studied for this, that I am an expert.

Sometimes that’s the biggest part. Many introverts seem to do just fine in work settings, in fact some of the best nurses I’ve worked with told me they were introverted. Initially it may not be easy, but they bring a unique level of detail into healthcare that is always appreciated.

Anytime you’re feeling shy, remember that you’re there to help people, that you have a duty to uphold, and that your fears aren’t going to get in the way.

2. Learn names.

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I am generally terrible with names until I’ve spent enough time to attach a story to it. This is a problem in healthcare where it’s expected you learn the doctors and nurses names.

There’s a little saving grace though, hospitals label and document everything. Anytime I need to talk to a nurse I find the board of their  names, match it to the patient I need info on, and then approach them.

It is significantly easier to say “Hey _____, I had a question” instead of “You, tell me about …”. Not only will you get more respect, but it works well to take some of that introverted awkwardness out of the conversation.

Simply making an effort to learn names helps you feel more at place in the hospital and will pay off exponentially in terms of building rapport.

3. Go on the offensive.

It seems weird to suggest you take an offensive towards the people you work with. I’m not saying be offensive I’m saying make the first move when it comes to socializing.

Instead of waiting for them to say hi, push your comfort zone and approach them first. In the social game, this makes you seem less introverted, and they will talk to you more comfortably.

If you try to “be neither seen nor heard” in the words of Arrested Development, you will have a much harder time feeling at home in your facility.

4. Wing it. 

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This one took the longest for me to realize. I’m not sure if it’s unique to me or applies to introverts as a whole, but I’m absolutely terrible at reading a script. Ask me to give a presentation and I’m fine, ask me to read a speech and it’s all downhill. My palms get sweaty, my mouth dry, my legs full of jello.

Before you talk to a patient, your first instinct might be to lay out a kind of script of what you’re going to talk about. Generally this ends up awkwardly as you try to force the conversation between points. What you should really do, is wing it.

Just take a breath, and get in that room. You’ll find that the things you wanted to talk about still pop into your head but at more appropriate times. The flow of  conversation is cleaner and more relaxed and you end up learning a lot more from the patient.

Those four lessons got me through my program with surprisingly few issues, despite my heavy introversion. There is absolutely no reason why introverts can’t be in the public spotlight, work in healthcare, or manage companies. Never let who you were born get in the way of want you want to do. You can quote me on that.

Be good to each other.

– Joshua Iufer

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