Why We’re in Healthcare: Connecting to Purpose, Leaving a Legacy

Posted on Tue, Jul 28, 2015
Why We’re in Healthcare: Connecting to Purpose, Leaving a Legacy

The work we do in medicine can be challenging and frustrating, but it's also rewarding and fulfilling. Take time to remember why you chose a career in medicine.

By Ginger Wirth, RN, Divisional Director of Clinical Services, Alliance Group

We’ve all heard about the importance of having passion for what we do. Over the last several months, I’ve been traveling to train providers on communication techniques and ways to improve the patient experience. I’ve spoken to countless numbers of EM and hospital medicine physicians and advanced practice providers, sharing tips and tools to help them communicate with patients and their families more effectively. These tips, when used effectively, can decrease patient anxiety, increase compliance, improve clinical outcomes and help improve the overall patient experience.

However, as I was returning home from a recent trip, I found myself thinking about another side of the patient experience. As I sat on the plane, I thought about a story that I’ve been sharing at the end of each of my lectures. It’s about finding a connection to the purpose of why we all joined this profession. It doesn't matter if you’re a nurse, doctor, EMT or a member of the support staff – most of us went into healthcare to make a difference in people's lives. The specific reasons may be different, but all relate to caring for others.

The Day I Learned My Purpose

My reason for pursuing this profession is no different. The story I share has to do with a young woman and her husband who came to the ED for post-delivery complications. They had just had their first child and were supposed to be enjoying the newness of a baby, but found themselves scared, anxious and in distress in a busy ED. I had the fortunate luck of being assigned to their treatment room that night. It was a typical busy shift, and I remember that she was in quite a bit of distress. I did all that I could do clinically to care for them both while the ED doctor determined the best treatment plan.

Due to her fairly critical vitals I remained by her bedside and quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be my clinical skills that would best help this young family; being there to listen, provide comfort, information and support would make the greatest impact as they waited for the specialist to arrive. I spent multiple hours with them and even stayed an hour after my shift was over while they waited to go to surgery.

When I was sure that she was handed off to the OR crew, I went home for the evening. I recall driving home that evening thinking about that couple and feeling overwhelming satisfaction. I hoped that she would be okay and that the new family would be soon reunited and able to start their exciting lives together. It was several days until I worked again, but when I returned there was a note from the husband saying that his wife did well and they happily were on the way home. At the end it said, “Thank you for all you did for us the other night. You are wonderful and will forever be an angel to us.”

You want to talk about connecting to purpose or a validation for my reason to be a nurse and for choosing a healing profession? That did it for me.

The story doesn't end there, however. This happened about 15 years ago, and since then I have moved out of the state and have changed jobs several times. This family, since that event, has managed to send a Christmas card to my home each year. The Christmas cards include photos of their family every year, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing their family grow. This couple now has four beautiful children. On the card they write, “To our angel, we are forever grateful." And thanks to the amazing connectivity of social media, I’m now "friends" with them and get family updates regularly, but I’ll always look forward to my annual Christmas card. I know I made a difference in their lives, and more importantly, they have made a difference in mine.

I have heard it said that we have the unique opportunity as healthcare providers to touch many lives each and every day and it is 100% true. We have a chance to shape not only the perceptions of those we treat, but they in turn have the opportunity to shape our own practice of medicine. We can relish and remember the experiences and connections we make with patients and families and we can use sad or negative experiences to take better care of patients and perhaps better care of ourselves.

I sincerely hope that each of you has a story like this in your career and hope that it helps you remember why you chose this career. The work we do in medicine can be challenging and frustrating at times, but it also can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling work we can do. Know that those who seek our care are most likely anxious, afraid and having discomfort – physical and emotional – and we can make all the difference by sharing with them the heart of why we entered medicine.

Ginger Wirth

Ginger Wirth, RN, joined EmCare in 2013 as a Divisional Director of Clinical Services for the Alliance Group with the strong belief that she could continue to make positive changes within healthcare by helping others focus on quality, excellence and the overall patient experience. Wirth regards her role as Director of Clinical Services as the ideal opportunity to partner with nursing, physician and facility leaders to make positive changes to the entire patient care experience. Her 20-plus year nursing career has been dedicated to quality and excellence, promoting overall positive outcomes and safety for patients.


Amazing story, Ginger. Thanks for sharing. You have always, and will continue to touch peoples lives with your caring spirit, and make a difference!
8/10/2015 5:21:30 PM