What I Learned in Healthcare

By Laura Edwards

Today, I worked my last day for Novant Health, a large, not-for-profit organization focused on solving the toughest healthcare issues and making a difference in the lives of patients and their families. I learned a lot about medicine and marketing and working with doctors and leaders in my role on the company’s marketing and public relations team. After I said my tearful goodbyes to my teammates late this afternoon and pointed my car toward home, I thought about what I would say to a friend if he or she asked what I learned in my near-eight-year tenure. I know far more about open heart surgeries and concussion care than I ever expected to know working toward a degree in English and avoiding science classes like the plague. I can tell you all about radial catheterizations and transcranial Doppler testing to measure the velocity of blood flow in the brain’s blood vessels. All of that stuff’s cool, and it makes me sound way smarter than I really am. But if someone asked me what stands out most from my eight years with the hospital, I’d name these eight things:

  • HIPAA isn’t a large, plant-eating mammal with big teeth from sub-Saharan Africa, and if you work in healthcare communications, you’d better know what it is.

By Kabacchi (Hippopotamus – 04) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • If you don’t like acronyms, pick another industry.
  • A lot of people working in healthcare are healthcare “lifers.” They enter the industry right after college/nursing/medical/technical school and never leave. They have their babies at their “office,” and their coworkers are their best friends. That’s unusual in today’s world, but it’s also really cool. I left healthcare when I drove away from my office today, but it will always be part of me, because working in healthcare is about more than what’s listed in your job description. I won’t write web copy or press releases or marketing plans for the hospital anymore, but working in healthcare changed my view of the patient-caregiver relationship and helped me see another side of the human condition. I’m no longer employed by Novant Health, but that stuff will be part of me forever.
  • If you work in healthcare, you get to work with some pretty cool people. But if you stick around long enough, you might get to meet some FAMOUS cool people.
group MJ photo

Some of my colleagues and me with Michael Jordan at a commercial shoot

  • The patient is ALWAYS most important. Period.
  • There is ALWAYS a good story to tell. Sometimes, the best stories are the hardest to find, because the stars are so humble, they don’t realize the power of their actions. I had the opportunity to write for two books of remarkable stories my company published that won awards and gained widespread coverage. The stories didn’t tout our latest technologies or medical breakthroughs, but rather the “little” things special people did to change the lives of others just by being themselves. An administrative specialist for the heart failure program calls an elderly patient who lost his wife in recent years at the same time every Friday – and they talk about everything BUT heart failure; a licensed practical nurse at an inpatient behavioral health unit stocks her personal locker with a treasure trove of clothing and personal hygiene items to help create comfort and a sense of order for patients during their stay. The books are still the coolest projects of my career.
  • Be kind to people. Take the time to make eye contact. Smile and say hello. You never know what someone is facing. Walking down the main hallway of the hospital, I could pass scared parents on the way from the cafeteria to our children’s hospital to visit their son or daughter, or a man on the way to tell his wife goodbye for the last time.
  • Miracles happen every day.

Oregon hospital

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