Recently, when I dialogue with therapists across the country I’ve noticed that something’s not quite right. It’s more than petty unhappiness with current jobs or unrealistic expectations.
Our hearts are being ripped out of our chests. The primary motivations for becoming a care provider are being sacrificed on the altar of big medicine.
Something’s Not Right
We long for work that is meaningful and joyful.
We want assurance that what we do with our minds and hands is fundamentally good and makes people’s lives better.
Due to the values of Western medicine or from our own insecurities we find ourselves working harder and enjoying it less.
Perhaps through no fault of our own, we work feverishly and distractedly to treat and document a full schedule of patients. Yet at the end of a jam-packed day we feel empty inside.
Thomas Merton in New Seeds of Contemplation astutely describes the absence of true and good labor:
“Unnatural, frantic, anxious work, work done under pressure of greed or fear or any other inordinate passion, cannot properly speaking be dedicated to God… we may have to tolerate it and make the best of what we cannot avoid. But let us not be blind to the distinction between sound, healthy work and unnatural toil.”
Merton’s wisdom speaks to two deep longings in the hearts of healers.
1) We want to do work that is meaningful and valuable.
2) We want to do work that is rewarding and enjoyable.
Regardless of the corporate culture or confinements of regulatory bureaucracy, we still have choices.
Make It Right
All of this stresses the importance of knowing your vocation or calling. Vocation and career are not the same things even though they may coincide for a time.
The idea of vocation is central to the Christian belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life.
No matter what place of employment or life stage we need to ask:
1) Who am I and what primarily am I called to be and do?
2) What do I fundamentally need to do right here–right now?
I cannot see a major reversal in the direction healthcare is heading. We will continually face pressure to do more with less. We will be pressed to dehumanize, dumb down, or commoditize our professional care.
It is up to each of us to do the deep inner work of knowing your true self and how it is expressed through your vocation. Only then will we be able to recover meaning and enjoyment in our work.
Here’s a couple of resources to get started: