Working in Health Care With Chronic Illness

Choosing the field you will remain in for the duration of your working life is one of the more consequential decisions we ever make.  Rarely is it that people switch around from career to career; typically the choice you make early on will be one that you keep forever.  As such, I find it terrible interesting to make note of apparent trends in the choices people make.  At the moment, I’m talking about people living with chronic illnesses who choose to work in healthcare.

The thought recently occurred to me during orientation at a new hospital.  During my introductions and “why did you choose to work here” exercises, I found I was far from the only person to say something like, “Well, I live with Chronic Illness, which peeked my interest in the field.”

One woman was inspired by those who treated her when she had cancer.  A man who was sick often as a child grew up curious.  And many others in our group of twenty-os-so had similar stories.  So I decided to ask on Tumblr.  I asked how many of my followers with chronic illnesses were considering or were pursuing careers in healthcare.  And my follow-up question was, did they decide this before or after getting diagnosed themselves?

I heard back from a variety of people, pharmacy techs, nursing students, phlebotomists, EMT’s and more.  And most said that either yes, their diagnosis inspired this decision or that it at least cemented it.

While this is all purely anecdotal, and I’m aware that it’s no real sample size, still, there seems to be some sort of trend.  But why?  Why go into a field that may add risks to your already sensitive health?  A field known for it’s added stress levels, long hours, potential exposure risks, and other factors?

My honest best guess is empathy.  Empathy for the suffering of others that might mirror out own at times.  Combined perhaps with a desire to “give back” to the community of people who help to keep your own health and wellness on track.  That is my best guess only because that is what it is for me personally.

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