What is the responsibility in our work as medical professionals?

by Lieke Campbell, Dentistry Student, Ghent, Belgium.

There is a saying that goes something like: ‘you can only truly care for another when you care for yourself’. This makes sense because when we do not make sure our body is well cared for we might get tired, exhausted or even ill to the point we cannot care for another anymore. I have also found that becoming very emotional, e.g. angry or frustrated, and taking on too much from or for others, are also signs that we are not truly well and not taking care of ourselves first. Taking care of ourselves is a key part of the responsibility of being a health care professional.

If this is true, and if this is the way our bodies naturally work, why is this level of responsibility not lived in everyday life?

In my experience, there are three things to look at:

  • The system
  • Ourselves and our choices on a daily basis
  • The word responsibility and our relationship with it.

The system

The pressure of the health care system is huge. There are currently a lot of financial cut backs occurring and many health care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes are cutting their number of employees back to a minimal level. This means people are having to work very hard to get their job done and ensure all people are cared for. This puts a huge stress onto the employees and consequently the care they can offer is lessened as there is less time and more pressure placed on them to get the work done.

This raises the question: Is it just about getting the job done, or is it also about offering a quality that makes the employee and the patient feel met, seen and cared for?

The choices we make on a daily basis

Do we choose to deeply care for ourselves such that we are truly ready to care for the sick and ill people we are working with? I am studying dentistry and am realising that this, like many other health care related jobs, is a very physically demanding job. It is becoming clear to me that I have to make sure I look after my body well and ensure that it is ready for the work I have to do. The way I am learning to do this involves a dedication towards preparing myself each day with gentle exercising, healthy food, going to bed early and waking early, going for regular walks, deepening my relationships with my family and colleagues and so on.

Another aspect of our daily choices that has an impact on the level of care we deliver is based on another saying: ‘walk your talk’. In other words: do we live the advice we give to our patients? For instance: I notice that as dentists we recommend that people should take care of their teeth, and hence eat and live in a way that supports the health of their teeth and be responsible with that. It therefore makes sense to also live these things ourselves; otherwise the advice we give will come empty of lived experience and authority. We recommend no sugar, no smoking, brushing our teeth twice a day and flossing just as an example. But, do we live these things ourselves? This is a key and foundational aspect of responsibility that I feel is needed to be taken to truly take care for the people around us.

Responsibility and our relationship with it.

This brings me to the point of our relationship with responsibility.  Taking care of ourselves like that is often seen as boring and hard in our society – you are being ‘too responsible’ if you do all this, but is this true? Why do we see being responsible as boring and as something to not be consistent at?

I found that living responsibly in my day to day choices is incredibly satisfying. To live responsibly for me means to know that everything I do is felt by everyone else, therefore the way I move matters, the way I think about myself matters, the way and what I eat matters even if nobody can see me, I know it is all felt as soon as I meet someone. I am a student of this and am in no way perfect, but to live this level of responsibility brings a simplicity to my life and a feeling of coming home. Knowing that our choices and actions do influence all others is a huge support to keep making these choices for myself, but also for all others I meet.

Therefore, to take responsibility is no longer seen as a heavy task; it gives by its spherical nature back to all involved, that is the people you care for, work with and eventually also yourself – as you are the person living in a body well cared for.

So our first responsibility as healthcare professionals is to take care of ourselves, to make choices every day that we know and feel are supportive and healthy, so that we can be truly supportive to those we care for and inspire them to take care of themselves also.


Read more:

  1. Wellbeing at work – Is it someone else’s job? 
  2. Taking responsibility at work to a whole new level. 





275 thoughts on “What is the responsibility in our work as medical professionals?

  1. It’s crazy that self care is something that has to be taught, but it does and is something we all need to learn if we are to do a responsible job of what we do. Some of the health care staff look like they aren’t far from being patients themselves and could change this so easily by changing their diet and sleeping patterns.

  2. Lieke, having previously worked in this industry, what I found was that how I was was the most important thing. If I was feeling well and not pressured or rushed then I had a lovely connection with the clients I cared for and that everything was done with a beautiful, tender, loving quality and it was this quality that made all the difference and was appreciated by my clients rather than how much I got done. I was also very efficient when I was calm and present, so to answer your question, for me quality was the most important thing; ‘Is it just about getting the job done, or is it also about offering a quality that makes the employee and the patient feel met, seen and cared for?’

  3. The theme in this blog could be applied to any industry not just health-care. Do we focus on the end product or the bottom line or productivity and efficiency only, or do we make it about people and relationships first knowing that it is the quality of these relationships that builds the organisation that then supports its clients or customers so much more.

  4. Living responsibly does indeed feel very spherical as it always brings us back to ourselves as we feel the impact of how we have lived our day. At the end of the day where we have been energetically responsible we can feel the flow and innate naturalness of living a simple life and being in connection.

  5. It’s the same in any industry. You have to practice what you preach otherwise there is nothing for the customer to be inspired by. I work in skin care. If I don’t look after my skin it doesn’t make sense.

  6. Yes Lieke, Live it, Walk it, Talk it. The responsibility is ours in every moment in all we do, as we are connected to the whole continuously. If we are in health care it makes sense to live that care and take it out to others, bringing that quality that can be felt.

  7. We must nurture our medical students at the education phase so that when they go into work they are not already burnt out and depleted, but revitalised and committed to serve.

  8. We can all make choices that don’t support us thinking it only affects us, but that’s not the case – everything we do including how we live can be felt by the people around us and how we live will either inspire them to nurture themselves or encourage them to be as care-less as we are.

  9. “This raises the question: Is it just about getting the job done, or is it also about offering a quality that makes the employee and the patient feel met, seen and cared for?”. I like applying this question to all person to person relationships in life.

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